You may remember that around the New Year I was struggling with stomach bloating and cramps that effectively halted my training and prevented me from taking part in my first race, the Great Winter Run. To say I was disappointed is an understatement. I was devastated that all my hard training was for nothing.

I went through a pretty tough detox, basically a vegan diet with no caffeine, no wheat and no alcohol, for a month and gradually reintroduced food groups. The only upshot was bloating with wheat and a new dislike for cow’s milk. Since then I’ve avoided both and had no real problems.

Until Sunday night.

Seemingly from nowhere, I was doubled up with stomach cramps just after I went to bed. Luckily I had some Buscopan (designed to help with stomach cramps), which helped enough to let me sleep eventually. The following morning I was still suffering and was hugely bloated. Now, if you think that maybe I am exaggerating, I could show you photographs of what I looked like when I was six months pregnant and what I looked like yesterday and you’d be hard pushed to say which was which, apart from maybe identifying some dodgy 90s clothing! My stomach becomes quite distended; in fact last time it happened my doctor was so convinced I must be pregnant that she made me take a test!

Slowly my belly is going down and the discomfort is receding. I’m no longer having cramps, but I still get a heavy feeling, similar to that which you get prior to the onset of cystitis, before I pee.

All of this seems to point to IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) which, according to this article, 20% of people will get at some point in their lives and it’s twice as common in women as it is in men.

Skipping past the gory bits, I wanted to know what to do about it and the recommendations based on research are sketchy to say the least. No one really knows what causes IBS, so treating it is a bit like throwing mud on a wall and seeing what sticks. However, this section stands out for me:

Foods, drinks and lifestyle

A healthy diet is important for all of us. However, some people with IBS find certain foods of a normal healthy diet can trigger symptoms or make symptoms worse. Current national guidelines about IBS include the following points about diet, which may help to minimise symptoms:

Have regular meals and take time to eat at a leisurely pace.
• Avoid missing meals or leaving long gaps between eating.
• Drink at least eight cups of fluid per day, especially water or other non-caffeinated drinks such as herbal teas. This helps to keep the faeces (stools) soft and easy to pass along the gut.

• Restrict tea and coffee to three cups per day (as caffeine may be a factor in some people).
• Restrict the amount of fizzy drinks that you have to a minimum.
• Don’t drink too much alcohol. (Some people report an improvement in symptoms when they cut down from drinking a lot of alcohol, or stop smoking if they smoke.)
• Consider limiting intake of high-fibre food (but see the section above where an increase may help in some cases).
• Limit fresh fruit to three portions (of 80 g each) per day.
• If you have diarrhoea, avoid sorbitol, an artificial sweetener found in sugar-free sweets (including chewing gum) and in drinks, and in some diabetic and slimming products.

• If you have a lot of wind and bloating, consider increasing your intake of oats (for example, oat-based breakfast cereal or porridge) and linseeds (up to one tablespoon per day). You can buy linseeds from health food shops.

The sentences in italics are the ones I do adhere to and so I’m discounting those. The ones in normal font are the ones maybe I need to focus on. I drink far too much ordinary tea, sometimes ten mugs a day, including two to wake me up in the morning! I do have decaf tea; if I need a cuppa, I’ll have that. I do like drinking herbal teas too. And up my porridge intake! Since having hens I’ve been mainly eating boiled eggs for breakfast lately – back to the porridge tomorrow!

To be honest, I haven’t felt like running. I haven’t felt well enough. My head wants to, my body is digging its heels in. Yesterday I threatened it with some yoga but didn’t follow through. Today I’ve watched movies and rested.

And felt a bit guilty!

EDIT: Post writing this two of my good friends, both IBS sufferers themselves, have pointed out the blindingly obvious to me, that my bout of IBS could have been triggered by stress. As I just said on Facebook, facing up to being stressed is not something historically I have been good at; I, instead, try to cope by ignoring how I feel and getting on with things. Inevitably something gives and this time it seems to be my gut telling me to slow down, relax and adjust my life.

To focus on my diet alone is really not good enough. This is the very first paragraph in causes, which I had glossed over:

Overactivity of the nerves or muscles of the gut. It is not known why this may occur. It may have something to do with overactivity of messages sent from the brain to the gut. Stress or emotional upset may play a role. About half of people with IBS can relate the start of symptoms to a stressful event in their life. Symptoms tend to become worse during times of stress or anxiety.

It’s possible that the psychological treatments in conjunction with looking at my diet and making sure I exercise regularly, maybe even despite the spasms, might be even more effective.

Thank you Lizzie and Fraser for listening and advising.

The end of the road

Since my last update I’ve done some slightly longer runs, working on my endurance. A 5.5km run in 33 mins (giving me just under 6 minute/km pace) and today a 7km run, with intervals. My next run is around an hour at a slower pace.

I have to say the intervals are getting easier, maybe too easy. I’m running them at my race pace of 11.3 kph and, perhaps it’s the training, but that seems almost steady now! I’m actually considering restarting the 5k training, but cranking the speed up a notch! I can run a sub-30 minute 5k…how much faster can I go?

My virtual running friends are great at helping me to celebrate my successes. With friends and contacts at Facebook, Twitter and DailyMile all cheering me on it’s easy to think beyond each small improvement to a new self-imposed target. I’m not a social runner; I don’t feel the need to join a running club, but having people cheer me on is very important.

Three weeks to go before my first race and I’m tempted to book others already. I think I need to get the first one under my belt though, before booking anything in the summer holidays. I’ve prepared myself mentally by stating aloud that I am not looking for PBs on my first outing. I’m nervous enough about where to go, where to park, where to put my bag, where to line up – going with a time to beat would be too much to ask! I just want to get there, get it done and then relax.

I am itching to get out on the road. The weather has been appalling here recently and, as I’ve said before, running on the road in poor visibility conditions is asking for trouble. I thought I’d dodge the showers today, but it wasn’t to be. Predictably the sun came out as I was finishing on the treadmill and it’s lovely just now.

Too late Running Gods, I am full of a three course Sunday dinner. Moving is now optional.

Apps and Apologies

Two runs since my last post and I’ve only today found the time to update the blog. I’m terrible, I know! Sorry!

The Ultimate 5k app is coming to an end. On Wednesday it gave me a 5.5km run at race tempo, which I completed in just under 30 minutes on Trevor. I was really pleased with my pace because it was consistent and strong throughout.

The last run I completed was a “race” i.e. meant to be played during a race, which I’ll do in July when I am racing. I managed that in 29:08 because I ran through the last walk break, which Jeff says you can do if you are feeling strong enough and I was.

I have a longer run to do next, just under 10k and then I think I’m done.

So…what next?

Weeellllll, I’ve been looking at a half marathon training app! Hmmm, I can run 8, so 13 isn’t that much more I’m thinking! So which app to choose, because I obviously HAVE to have an app to get me through this! I need to do a bit of research. Hal Higden’s is the obvious choice, but it’s very expensive as apps go.

Watch this space!

Ultra Running – my version!

Following on from Sunday’s run I managed a quick 3km on the treadmill after work on Tuesday. I actually needed to run. I’d had a particularly stressful afternoon at work and was still a bit shaky from this when I returned home. If anyone dares to tell you that primary school teaching is a breeze, send them in to shadow me for a day – they will be whistling a different tune very quickly!

I followed Jeff Galloway’s app and, after Sunday’s 5k, it suggested 3km of intervals and I was happy to pummel the mill for half an hour.

I wish I had more time to fit my running in. I read how friends with younger kids and part time work/college manage seemingly fine. I don’t. I find it almost stressful at times trying to sort out exactly when I can run. In any case, last week was a very busy week at the gallery and, on some nights, I wasn’t arriving home until 8pm with a take out meal in tow and in no state to run. I was shattered.

However, come Monday I was determined to fit that run in. I sent that message out on Twitter so that my running friends could bear witness and, in my mind, hold me to it! And it was, for me, a long run. Over 11 kilometres. The furthest I’d ever run.

Once again Jeff Galloway was calling the shots. Despite the clear weather, I chose the treadmill. This was just for convenience. We were tired and hungry and, even though he offered, I felt I was making my husband wait to start the barbie until I was at least half done. Running outside just seemed to make it a longer job (especially as I’m really good at ignoring the “halfway there” call and running too far from home!)

I started far too fast, confusing the distance (11.2) with the speed (10) and ran the first segment faster than I should have done. It was fine though – I’ve run faster, but I was a wee bit worried when I read the number and thought that was going to be my pace for the entire run! Eeek!

Once I’d settled into my rhythm, probably about 2.5km in to the run, it felt a good steady pace. I hit 5k in around 32 minutes. That was OK because I knew I was running for endurance today, not speed.

Strange how, after a while, parts of your body start to groan a wee bit. My right knee went first, just twinging – letting me know it was there. I ignored that and watched the chucks out of the window. Then my right Achilles started to hurt. “I’m ignoring you!” Then, and this was a new one, my left arch started to hurt. I tried changing my running style to stretch the arch out, really rolling my foot from mid foot to toe and that seemed to help. It also helped me to achieve a better mid foot strike.

By this time I was at about 8km and it suddenly struck me that it was a very warm, sunny evening and here I was running on the treadmill, in the fully glassed conservatory, in the heat! On a walk break I turned to look at the thermometer and it was reading 80’F and the sweat was pouring off me. At that point my husband lit the barbecue!!

I hit 10k at a personal best of 67:07, two full minutes under my previous best time. As I’d run faster at the start I was inevitably going to cover more ground than the app expected so I just carried on running. I reached 12k minutes fourteen minutes later at 81:01, the furthest distance I’ve run (so far).

I ran at the same pace throughout (apart from my daft first sector). 10 kph on the runs, 4.8 kph on the walks at a ratio of four minutes to one. I was tired, but not exhausted and I quickly recovered. I’ve been a bit stiff (calves, IT band mainly) but nothing painful. I know I was running well, i.e. my style was correct, because my core hurts! I was using my core people!!

I’m pretty pleased with myself to be honest.

I also have to thank my friends for stomping up some sponsorship money. If you look across to the right of the screen you’ll see that they have helped me to achieve more than half of my target already, with two months to go before my race! That is amazing!