Musings on training, triathlon and life. by Coach Jeff
A year ago I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. I know what you’re thinking, “What the heck is that and why should I care?” Well, you don’t have to care, but it is a big part of my life now.
Ulcerative Colitis is a slightly kinder version of Crohn’s Disease, and affects the linings of the large intestine/colon and rectum. It causes an uncontrollable urge to have a bowel movement.
But don’t cry for me, Argentina!
To be honest I didn’t have any grieving period where I cried myself to sleep asking, “Why??!!! Oh, why? Why did this happen to me?? It’s not fair!!”
I just kind of shrugged and said “Okay, how does this affect my training?”
Training, triathlon, life.
I’m sharing this now because I want you to know that your disease or disability does not have to define who you are, or what you do.
I’ve had to make some modifications, for sure. First, I tried dietary modifications. Elimination of gluten and lactose for starters. Then, I eliminated beef. Went on a Paleo diet. Even stopped coffee (Gasp! No!). Nothing worked. After about 6 weeks, my symptoms disappeared without a cause.
And so this is how it goes. Without warning or reason, my symptoms come and go. I will usually be asymptomatic for 1 to 3 months, and then without warning, I’m running to the bathroom. My symptoms usually last for 3 to 6 weeks, during which time I lose weight and have limited energy for training. I still train, though. I’ve learned to scale my workouts and focus on the fact that I still get to do what I love. Coach.
What about being an athlete?
Well, since there is no “trigger” for my conditions, and currently no behavior/dietary “cure,” I will continue to be a triathlete. The wonderful thing about being a triathlete is the focus on cross training. Before CrossFit started the cross training rage, I was a triathlete. Which means I cross train. I swim, run, cycle, lift weights, do yoga. Most of all, I have fun. I love training. I love training more than competing. Training is fun!
And within the sport of triathlon, I have many distance options to train for. So, Olympic distance will be my race of choice, since, even if I have a flare up of symptoms, I can safely complete that distance inside of 3 hours.
What does all of this mean to you? I hope it inspires you to continue your training, or even motivate you to start. You see, even though I have this condition, it doesn’t affect me all the time, and there are athletes out there with more debilitating conditions that continue to train and race. And you don’t have to be the sharpest spoon in the drawer to figure that out…