It’s been six weeks since I took the decision to start running again and it’s been great to be back out running on a regular basis. I’m taking things relatively easy with 5k/10k runs at varying paces and the odd trail run. So how have things been going?

Trail Running

I love trail running! Trail running for me is combining a number of things that I love, running, exploring new areas, experiencing nature and photography. I love the whole experience surrounding a trail run from planning out a new route on OS Maps in the week, looking forward to the weekend to try out the new route (whilst keeping one eye on the weather), and then heading out not knowing what I’m going to encounter.

More often that not, the route has plenty of rewarding aspects but I’m still forgetting to pay attention to those all important contour lines on a map and getting a shock when I encounter so many hills. I fell foul of this in the early runs getting back into it resulting in a lot more walking along the route. I don’t see this as an issue as just being out on the trails run/walking is helping me move towards my goal of being able to comfortably participate in trail races in the future.

All trail runs start in OS Maps

As I’ve been out of action for so long, I’ve dialled back on the trail runs to focus more on rebuilding fitness on the road and getting used to running for longer periods. If I head out onto a trail, I do so with a more realistic aim of simply enjoying it and running sections that I can and not worrying about walking.

And I love trail walks so I see a trail running as an extension of this and if I encounter something of interest along the way such as a stunning view, a good photo opportunity or some wildlife, I’m going to stop, take it in and then continue with the run.

My trail runs are often punctuated by stopping to take photographs of the views or cows

Road Running

My road running has so far been formed of ad-hoc runs throughout the week and could involve a short runcommute between the office and home, a lunchtime 5k or a longer run in an evening. Most of the runs have been going well and I’ve noticed improvements each time. Early runs were a struggle to at 10:00 /mi pace and 5k times of around 30:00 but each run as become progressively easier and I’m now finding it more comfortable to run at a faster pace.

I’ve been purposely avoiding using my Garmin and uploading to Strava so that I don’t get sucked into analysing runs although I still wear my Apple Watch which records time, distance, pace and heart rate. It’s been interesting monitoring my heart rate and seeing it pumping at 100% in earlier runs to lowering even when running at an increasing pace.

I’ve been chipping away at my 5k time and have managed to get it down from around 30:00 to 24:20. It’s great to be having a taste or what I used to be capable of.

Rebooting your running means chasing PBs again

Is Running Affecting My Wound?

Prior to restarting running, there was always a concern that if I did there would be a chance that it would exacerbate the wound. Based on this, it was sensible to err of the side of caution and not run. This started back in July 2019 and I did well at maintaining it but it reached a point where I needed to try it out in order to stay sane and with the blessing of my nurse it was decided to give it a shot.

After 6 or so weeks we’ve determined that running regularly combined with regular walking and other exercises appears to have had no effect on the wound. We already knew it wasn’t getting much better when not running and by reintroducing running it hasn’t made it worse (although it’s not getting any better), it’s just a stubborn wound.

It appears that at least for the time being, I’m good to continue on my running journey again.

Here’s what it looks like
It’s a persistent bugger!

Colostomy Irrigation: The Game Changer

Before I started colostomy irrigation I researched the pros and cons of performing it and as a runner I was told that I would benefit greatly from it. Having the stoma has helped me immensely by removing the need to rush to find a toilet (or the nearest bush) but it didn’t remove the need to poop so my body would still need to get rid of it and I’d have the bag to catch anything.

Colostomy irrigation takes things to a different level and by flushing out everything first thing in the morning, meaning that I no longer have to worry about dealing with pooping when running, I can just head out the door without worrying about taking a poo bag with me! You very quickly forget about the fact that you have a stoma, which was the main aim of having it.

I didn’t run up that stupidly steep trail and neither did I run up it when I took part in the Bath Very Long Half Marathon back in 2016

When I started running a few months after surgery I would have make sure that I took a spare bag with me just in case I needed it but now I don’t even think about it, I just head out the door.

There is one potential issue with irrigating and that’s when it doesn’t quite go to plan. I’ve found on occasions (once, maybe twice a month) that if the body is not sufficiently hydrated, when the water enters the bowel, it can quickly be absorbed rather than coming back out as planned. This can result in abdominal pain which can prove to be quite uncomfortable. This can last for a few hours to an entire day. There’s always the chance that this could happen before a run or even before a race so I’m hoping that it doesn’t occur when I want to run.

How About the Hernia?

Back towards the end of 2019 and early 2020, the hernia played heavily on my mind in particular whether I should elect to have surgery to correct it. Over time I have accepted the fact that it’s there and despite it being very noticeable (perhaps more so to me than anyone else) it’s starting to become a part of me. I wish it wasn’t there but I’m getting used to it being there.

When running and exercising I when a hernia support belt which doesn’t interfere with running and doesn’t require adjustments but when not running it’s not something I’d want to wear. I’m not overly concerned about the hernia and whether I will require surgery in the future so whilst I wear a support belt when running, if I forget to wear it (there have been times when I’ve forget to take it with me to the gym or to work), I don’t let it stop me from exercising.

My First ‘Race’

It’s been over 11 months since the last time I ran at ‘race pace’ (the tough Tintern Trot) but after six weeks of running I felt like I could try and give it a go. And whilst I’ve never been one for virtual races, actual races probably won’t be making a comeback for some time.

Around this time of the running calendar the Gwent Leisure Centre League would be running the Road Series race and as a replacement there’s a virtual race involving a 5.25 mile run with the aim of achieving 60m of elevation. I’ve got the tools to plan a route and determine the elevation but and it would be easy to plan a route with plenty but I’m not ready to be tackling hills at speed so opted for an out and back canal route that I’d hope would provide just the right amount.

I planned to head out early on a Saturday morning so that I could still fit in a long walk as usual so this meant getting up at 0430 for irrigation. Thankfully I didn’t encounter any issues and was good to go around 0630. I have to admit I was a little apprehensive about the run in particular intentionally heading out for 40+ minutes or pain, albeit rewarding pain.

Oh boy was it painful! I headed out quick, too quick, and encountered canal locks quickly and after 2 miles was finding it difficult to maintain the pace. Thankfully at this point I would turn around and would head back down the locks but I’d still have maintain a ‘speedy’ pace. After running a 7:49 /mi 5k earlier in the week I was determined to finish at a pace of 7:45 /mi which would give me a chance to get under 24 minutes for the first 5k.

40-odd minutes later and after pushing hard I managed to make it to 5.25 miles, managed to maintain a 7:44 /mi pace and managed to get under 24 minutes for a 5k (23:34). I’ve really missed that runner’s high feeling!

Conclusion

I’ve run with Crohn’s and that’s a rather unpleasant experience. I’ve run with a stoma and colostomy bag and that’s a much better experience but I still wasn’t in total control. I’ve now run a stoma and a cap after irrigating and that’s much more like what most other runners experience.

The parastomal hernia, which frankly doesn’t look good, is something I’m learning to live but thankfully it isn’t causing any issues when running. As long as I keep it tightly wrapped up I don’t think it’s going to cause any issues.

The only thing left out of my control is the persistent Ken Butt wound which isn’t getting any worse, but also isn’t getting any better. When deciding to run again, part of the decision involved thinking that there was a chance that it may take a very long time to heal (if ever!). If I started running again and continued to dress the wound and visit a nurse weekly, that would be better than going through that same process but not running.

Running wise, I’m resetting the records on my Garmin so that I can start to work my way through getting new records and increasing mileage with the ultimate aim of running stupid races like a Beer Ultra again.

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Diagnosed with IBD in 2002, I have experienced the usual ups and downs of having a chronic disease and tried numerous medications but the time finally came in 2018 to elect to have surgery to improve my life. I had the surgery in 2019 and this is my journey having a 'New Bum'.

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