June 19, 2019
One of our EdApp Performance Team athletes, Chris Wallace, is one of the premier talents in Triathlon, hailing from the U.K. He shares his health vs fitness experience, on his journey towards Nice.
After having one of the best races of my life at the Ironman World Champs in Kona, it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster in terms of training and health. However, I’m hopeful now that this is the beginning of a steady upwards trajectory towards Nice, and I look forward to documenting it in the EdApp blog over the next few months!
Arriving back from Kona, while I was a few pounds heavier following a week of post-race indulgence in Oahu, I was excited to work towards my next big goal, the Ultra Trail Australia 50km race in the Blue Mountains. I started to build the running mileage up (with a few swims and bikes thrown in to mix it up), and by the start of February this year I really felt I was getting into the sort of run shape I had been in for my marathon PB in London in 2017.
However, while my fitness may have been at an all-time high, it was becoming clearer and clearer to me that there was a real disconnect with my overall health. For the past year, I’d suffered in bouts with real issues with my gut and things were only getting worse. Endless trips to the toilet, abdominal bloating and other unfortunate symptoms had really started to affect not only my day-to-day life but my state of mind. When I finally went to the GP, one of the biggest surprises was to find that at a time when I felt in great shape, I was borderline anaemic with very low iron levels.
With many tests carried out and an appointment booked to see a specialist, I was hopeful of getting some answers and a path forward!
Little did I know however, that an emergency stop (other than to the toilet) was around the corner. Coming back from a long easy run on the trails one Sunday, I noticed that the bloated feeling I had was evolving into abdominal tenderness and then pain. By the time I arrived at work on Monday, I was in agony. My boss sensibly sent my pale face to the emergency room. While the initial suspicions were that this might be linked to my prior symptoms, three days (of fasting!) later it was confirmed that I had a very inflamed appendix. I was rushed in for surgery and an emergency appendectomy and cecectomy. With open surgery required, and my appendix in a nasty state by the time of surgery, I was looking at a prolonged lay-off of 6 weeks. Recovery would be slow.
Prior to the surgery, I estimated the longest I’d gone without exercise in the past 5 years was 2 weeks. Thankfully (and conveniently) my family arrived from the UK on the day before I was discharged on a pre-planned trip and so they, together with my partner Bonnie (who’d been a huge support in getting me through the week in hospital), were an amazing support and it was welcome relief catching up with them in the first two weeks of recovery.
In previous years, I had always been one to return to training as soon as I could after any injury, illness or big event. However, the past few months had really brought home to me that health and fitness aren’t always found together. I needed put my health at the forefront, and so I actually waited until the all clear from the surgeon before starting any activity. I did sneak in some beers with the family though.
It’s now been over 12 weeks since the surgery, and I’m starting to feel good again. Having followed up with the specialist and been further prodded and probed (including a colonoscopy and gastroscopy), I’ve thankfully been able to rule out more serious gastrointestinal conditions.
I now have a great appreciation of the need to respect my body in training and to take a more holistic view of my overall condition. With an acute focus on my diet (including the adoption of a low FODMAP diet to improve my IBS symptoms) and the necessity of recovery (banishing forever the “more-is-better” philosophy), I hope to develop my fitness and health in tandem in the coming months.
Having sorely sold my ticket for the UTA 50km event, my sole focus is now on the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Nice in September 2019. Fingers crossed for a happy and healthy build to the event. I look forward to sharing the journey with you over the next few months!
Daniel Brown is a senior technical editor and writer that has worked in the education and technology sectors for two decades. Their background experience includes curriculum development and course book creation.