Story Time (1)

Instead of just writing about my training and current life, I think it’s important for me to share some stories from my past as it pertains to my experience with getting sick and having an ostomy. A lot of what I’ve posted so far has been pretty positive and upbeat, which is how i choose to approach difficult situations in my life. That being said, there have certainly been times where that was not the case. Today, I’m going to talk about when I first developed painful symptoms associated with Colitis.

When I was diagnosed in July of 2013, I had just come down from a month of training at altitude in Flagstaff, and was in very good shape. I had been running 80-100 miles a week and was, for the most part, feeling pretty good. I was going to the bathroom 6-8 times a day, seeing blood in about half of those visits, but didn’t realize the potential seriousness of the diagnoses I had been given. I wasn’t experiencing any pain, and had so far not seen any significant changes in my blood levels.

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Getting ready to run with some fast people in Flagstaff in my favorite green shorts

I did a small amount of research online about Colitis after my diagnosis, but was assuming that since I was such a healthy person that my experience with the disease would be fairly short-lived and easily controlled. I had 5 days at sea level where I got the sigmoidoscopy, and then I headed back to altitude in the Tahoe mountains for the annual 3 week training camp with the UC Berkeley team.

It was my final year as a Golden Bear, and I was coming off a disappointing track season. I was the captain of very promising young squad, and was ready to leave my mark on the program by leading the most successful team in the universities history…or at least that was the plan. When I got up to Tahoe, my symptoms began to evolve and become a problem.

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One of the few team workouts I was able to complete at Cal xc camp 2013

The first week I was up there, things were close to normal. I was running well and enjoying every minute of my final team-camp experience. The only real difference was that I had to duck into the bushes to use the bathroom at least once a run – an annoyance, but honestly not that uncommon for any distance runner while adjusting to altitude. The second week however is when the pain started.

I remember waking up one night around 1am and running to the bathroom with some SERIOUS urgency. It was the first time I remember having a painful bathroom experience. When I woke up the next morning, I had a similar experience before heading out on our 7:30am run, but I kept it to myself and started the run with the team like usual. Less than a mile into the run however that sense of sudden and overwhelming urgency came on again, and there was no bathroom nearby. We were running around the small neighborhood town in Soda Springs where we rented our cabin, so I didn’t have the option to go into the trees or forrest yet. I stopped and told everyone else to continue on their way, that I would catch them in a few minutes. This was not the case. I walked the clenched straight legged walk Crohns and Colitis patients know well back to our cabin and burst into the bathroom with milliseconds to spare before an accident. I remember sitting on the cold porcelain toilet staring at the tacky wall paper thinking, “this is not good, I might really be in trouble here”.

I took the day off of running and spent my time researching more in depth about what I was dealing with. When the team got back, I told them I was having stomach issues, but didn’t feel the need to explain in more depth than that. At this point I was still thinking that I would be fine, but I’ll always remember that day as the one where doubt first crept into my mind.

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Taken shortly after being forced to stop a run with abdominal pain. The frustration is apparent on my face

The next two weeks at camp continued very much along the same path. I would be fine for a run one day, and the next unable to make it more than a couple minutes. I was changing my diet and keeping a record trying to figure out what it was that was causing all of these problems, but there was no real pattern that I could see. It’s a shame, because the time spent up at those summer training camps with the Cal teams are among my most cherished memories of college, but memories of Tahoe camp in 2013 will always be tainted as the starting point of the worst 2 years of my life.*

Looking back at the beginning stages of my Colitis up at camp, I don’t think my diet had a whole lot to do with the flare. I was under a tremendous amount of stress at the time. I was entering my final year of school, which meant I needed to be thinking about what I was going to be doing when I graduated (I had no idea). I was running 100 miles a week at 7,000 ft. elevation for the better part of 2 months to prepare for what I assumed would be my last chance to run in a Cal jersey. I was on a team full of freshmen and sophomores who were all looking to me to lead them in the right direction.  Add in the fact that I had recently ended a 2-year relationship with my then-girlfriend and you’ve got a pretty strong stress-cocktail to make a bad Colitis flare even worse.

*I want to say that despite how frustrating and painful Colitis had been for me at the camp, it was STILL an incredible experience to have been up there; one that I wouldn’t trade for anything. It certainly softened the blow at the time to be surrounded by my best friends to finish off what was still an amazing summer

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Cal XC 2013   <3

So, What Do You Eat?

As an Ostomate-athlete, there are two questions that I get more than any others. “How do you stay hydrated?” and, “What do you eat?”. Before I dive in and answer these questions, I want all of my readers to know that I am not a nutritionist; these are meals and techniques for hydration that I’ve found work well for me and my body. I’ve done a lot of experimenting on my own to find what works for me, so I urge you to do the same! (ostomate or otherwise!)

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Tis the season?

Breakfast (part 1): Standard cup of joe in the morning. Peet’s Coffee, in case anyone was wondering. Not that I have any strong ties to a particular coffee, this one just happens to meet the 3 requirements I have of coffee: Its affordable ($6/bag), it tastes good enough to drink black, and has caffeine. Simple guy, simple needs. Of course, it is paired with my first liter of water, and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

I took about 30 mins to finish the coffee and water while responding to emails (some of which were requests for a post like this!) and then I was out the door on a 2 hour bike ride.

Bike Fuel/Hydration: While riding, or doing anything that is longer than 70 mins of non-stop activity for that matter, I always bring a some form of carbohydrate to help me keep going. Since hydrating is such an important facet of my diet, I opt to use a sports drink mix that both hydrates and provides fuel. I also bring a bottle full of water with just electrolytes in it.

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Gu Lemon Tea Carbohydrate and electrolyte replacement on the left, Gu Tab Tri-Berry Electrolyte replacement on the right!

Some important things to note about hydration:

  • The large intestine is responsible for absorbing water from food that is passed through it. This accounts for up to 30% of your daily H20 intake. (Yeah, I cited Wikipedia. Take that high school english teacher!)
  • The main electrolytes I look for are potassium, sodium, and magnesium. This site briefly explains how the small intestine absorbs water using these electrolytes, and thus why they are extra important to have when you’re covering a 30% H20 deficit.
  •  The average person should drink at least 2.5 liters of H20 per day.  (Thanks Mayo Clinic)

The last bullet shows that it would make sense for the average ostomy patient to be getting at least 3.25 liters of H20 per day, which is a 30% increase from normal. Keep in mind that your kidneys need sodium and potassium in balance with the water that you drink in order to properly absorb the water into your body. I linked a dry but highly informative article from my alma mater GO BEARS that explains it in more detail. The bottom line is that if you are going to be drinking more water, the amount of electrolytes you drink must increase proportionally.

The last mention about hydration that I will put on here is that 3.25 liters is a baseline. If you are like me and sweat almost as profusely and often as you work out, you will want to be getting more hydrating fluids. I aim for 6 liters a day, 3/4s of which will have some amount of added electrolytes (usually the GU TABS, pictured above). Its best to drink fluids in small sips, constantly throughout the day. The gatorade bottle I use never leaves my side.

Breakfast (pt.2):  So now I’ve finished my bike ride, I’m 2.5 liters of fluid in, and I’m hungry for something more substantial. Time to scramble.

  • 4 small peppers (1/2 normal pepper)IMG_2279
  • 1 cup chopped spinach
  • 3 slices of deli ham
  • Salt/pepper
  • 4 Eggs
  • Little mozzarella cheese

I usually sauté the vegetables along with the ham in a IMG_2280small amount of olive oil to help with digestion. Cooked veggies digest easier in the small intestine and you won’t absorb their nutrients well when uncooked unless you chew like crazy.. and ain’t nobody got time for that. (Just kidding. Seriously, its IMG_2281really important to chew your food well if you don’t have a colon).

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OMNOMNOM

I threw in a couple pieces of whole grain toast with apricot preserves too. Im not even hungry and I want to eat this meal again.

(P.S. – normally I only use 2 eggs, and add in egg whites, but I ran out of them)

 

 

SUPPLEMENTS:

Normally after breakfast I take my first round of supplements. I take:IMG_2293

  • Fish oil (3000mg)
  • Multi Vitamin (Gummies)
  • B-Complex (w/ vit C+Folic Acid)
  • Slow Release Iron (45mg)

I take fish oil to help with bone and joint health, and because having the extra Omega-3’s are god for you. There are a TON of different things that fish oil are supposed to help with. Placebo may very well be the main benefit, and if so, it seems to be working fine for me!

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B-vitamins are so.. complex

The Multi Vitamin speaks for itself. Can’t hurt to be taking it, especially with less time for food to be digested without a colon. That and having it in Gummie form is delicious and reminds me to take the rest of my supplements, which are far less exciting.

The Iron and the B-complex are highly related to one anther because Vitamin B helps with the absorption of Iron and the prevention of anemia. I always take Iron in either liquid or slow release capsule form for maximal absorption, and alternate between 45mg and 90mg a day. I have a history of low ferritin levels – the protein that stores Iron – even before I was diagnosed with Colitis. You need ferritin to help your body increase your hemoglobin levels, which is the protein in your red blood cells that carry oxygen to your muscles. This article goes into far more depth explaining the role of Iron and hemoglobin levels in long distance running and why it is so important if you want to read more. The main point is that if you have low ferritin or hemoglobin, you’re probably going to feel tired and you should talk to your doctor about supplementing.

LUNCH:

  • Greek Yogurt (1 cup)
  • Peanut Butter (1 TBs)
  • Raspberry preserve (1 TBs)
  • KIND Granola (1/2 Cup)
  • Trail mix (1/4 cup)
  • Mixed Berries (1/2 cup)

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I eat Greek Yogurt daily because I was advised that having probiotics was good for gut health; I’m trying to keep my remaining guts as heathy as possible. The trail mix, which has almonds, cashews, peanuts, sunflower seeds, and an assortment of dried fruits tends to be the most difficult to digest, but as long as I take my time and chew it thoroughly, I haven’t had any issue. That being said, the only time I’ve ever had an issue with blockage was when I didn’t chew the trail mix enough. Just take the extra 5 seconds per bite to chew. It’s worth it.

SNACK: Trail mix, banana, tangerine. I IMG_2288actually ate 3 of the tangerines, but only one made it into the photo.

I think it’s important to mention again that I have been constantly sipping water/GU throughout the day. By my mid afternoon snack, I am almost 4 liters and 3 GU tabs in.

 

DINNER:

After finishing my second workout for the day, which was 20 IMG_2287minutes of HIIT and core conditioning in the weight room, I made myself dinner! Probably my most simple meal of the day, I just cooked tortellini, added 1 big handful of spinach, added the sauce, and I was done! A lot of times I do eat meat at dinner time (Usually Chicken or

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YUM.

Fish), but since both the day of these meals and the day following it had so much cardio involved, I was making sure I could eat as much pasta as I could to get enough carbohydrates. I cooked the spinach slightly to make it more digestible.

 

I’m working on a more in depth ‘menu’ of EVERYTHING that I might eat throughout the day, along with any and all other suggestions I have, but for now, I hope this has been helpful! Please feel free to reach out if you have questions about any of what I’ve included. Also keep in mind that this is just what I’ve found works for me. Everyone’s body is different, so I urge you to try out different things until you find a system that works for you!

The Last 2.5 Months, in a Nutshell

Wow, what a whirlwind the last couple months has been! It’s been a while since I posted here, and so much has been going on; I finally have a chance to update everyone and get back in the swing of things with an actual blog! I’ll be issuing out a more formal ‘thank you’ to everyone who helped share and spread the word about my GoFundMe project because you have all been amazing for sharing.. but I’m going to wait until the end of the campaign. For the time being, here’s an update from the last couple of months!

To start, I should mention that I rolled my ankle really badly on January 5th, and wasn’t able to start running again until a couple weeks ago. Two and a half months without running was tough, but I kept busy in other ways. Initially, I was aqua jogging in the pool for 60-90 mins five to six times per week. For those of you who don’t know what that is, I’d best describe it as a foam torture device used to test the resolve of injured runners in a pool. It looks like this: Aqua Joggerand allows you to run in the water with your head bobbing just above the surface… and I loathe it (more than the average runner too – due to the added annoyance of an ostomy). All you can do is stare straight ahead at the other end of a pool as you slog along back and forth, brooding over the frustration of the injury that put you there in the first place.

That being said, the time spent aqua jogging can actually be quite productive. Aside from doing a very good job at maintaining cardiovascular fitness, the time spent thinking about injury will almost always turn into some type of resolution to do a better job at preventing future injury. It’s one thing to remember the monotony of cross training, but another thing to actually be doing it. My aqua jog mantra quickly became, “I didn’t go through 2 years of colitis-induced suffering just to be sidelined again by weak ankles, just get through today”. Even so, after a month of this with no end in sight the lesson was learned but punishment continued.

Then, along came a new mechanism of cross training that changed my spiteful attitude: Cycling. My girlfriend’s dad generously offered to let me borrow this beaut Trek Madonewhile I was injured to help stay in shape.

Until a couple months ago, I’d never clipped into a bike, let alone gotten on the saddle of a bike of this caliber. What a game changer! After my first ride, I was hooked, going 30-50 miles a day through the hills east of Berkeley. I even rode 90 miles (averaging 20.5 mph) in a single ride a couple weeks ago with John Fulton’s cycling group [Thank you for having me FMRC!]. I used to look at cyclists like long-lost relatives of my distance running brethren who wear dorky helmets and diaper pants instead of short-shorts. Having spent the better part of the last month and a half sitting on a bike seat however, I can tell you two things: if you are a distance runner, you will probably fall smack in love with cycling and the dorky helmets if you try it… and those diaper pants are a godsend for those of us with boney butts – aka all distance runners.

Thankfully though, my ankle (and achilles) have healed and allowed me to start running again. The cross training actually did a fantastic job of keeping my fitness intact. Obviously its never ideal to get injured, but once I started on the bike I decided that if it were possible to come back to running MORE fit after cross training than when I started, I was going to make it happen. I don’t think I’d say i’m more fit as a result, but I’m close to where I left off, and I found a new passion to chase in the future! (I grew up surfing in SD, and am a solid swimmer.. the triathlon is starting to sound more and more appealing 😛 ).

But now, its back to the grindstone. I’m in the full swing of training again, and planning on testing the waters in a low-key 2 mile race early next month. I’m going to begin filming for the short documentary series soon, and I’m working diligently on my newly formed company, Hurdle Barriers LLC, to find the best way to serve the ostomy community. There are lots of big things on the horizon, I can’t wait to share it with you all! But for now, and as always:

no colon, still rollin’

Collin Jarvis

Go Fund Me!!

Hey readers! As I’m sure most of you have seen (since the only way to access this site is through my social media accounts), I am raising money to hire a videographer to document what it’s like to train for the olympic trials with an ostomy bag. I am extremely passionate about both running, and spreading awareness of life after ostomy surgery! ANY amount will help me to hire the best videographer possible… and if you don’t have money to give, a simple share on your prefered social media platform will go a long way. This is all about promoting the idea that having an ostomy is nothing to be ashamed of. Rather, it is another chance at the amazing life that is waiting for us… We just have to reach out and seize it!!

Collin

GO FUND ME LINK (click here to see the gofund me page to learn more!)