Fighting Self Doubt

I haven’t updated in awhile. Not my weekly training updates, not a fundraiser update…NOTHING. And I’m feeling a little guilty about it. Because when I’m hurting I have a habit of shutting myself off from the world.

For the past three-four weeks I’ve been battling a sprained ankle/peroneal tendonitis. I felt the first twinges in my peroneal the week leading up to the Tennessee Ultra Ragnar, but during the race only felt twinges of pain during my first leg. After ragnar, I took an easy week and didn’t think anything of it. But as I began building the next week I noticed my peroneal was increasingly tight. After I did my last 20 miler out on the flooded trail, I could hardly walk the day after. It’s then I knew I was in trouble.

I took a week off. I didn’t do a damn thing except a few walks here and there and I could tell my peroneal was feeling much better. But when I went to run after a week of rest, the pain came right back. Once I finished my 10 miler on Good Friday I was in the same boat – I couldn’t walk right without pain. Immediately, I felt like a failure. I’ve been training for this 50k for so long, just to get injured in the final stage. So I shut down. I refused to leave the apartment all weekend except for work, and I disconnected from life. I had tunnel vision and I could only focus on how my 50k dreams were out the door.

This was about two weeks ago. and I’m doing much better. I started seeing a physical therapist, running on an underwater treadmill, and taking long walks to ease my anxiety and pent up energy. It’s hard to go from 50 miles a week to zero. But at some point between PT and waking up at the crack of dawn to run on the underwater treadmill, I started feeling better about my impeding 50k, even though my tendonitis still bothered me. I faced reality. My goal this year is my 57 miler in November – not the 50k, no matter how much I trained for it.

Once I stopped stressing, my body started recovering. The inflammation in my peroneal went down and I stopped having pain walking. This past week, after my last PT appointment, I made the decision to try and race. I went for a short jog on the treadmill and had no pain, so I decided I could at least start the race with the option of dropping out if the pain built up too much. I was nervous about toeing the line without any real training/running for three weeks prior, but I also trusted myself. As long as my peroneal didn’t hurt, I knew I could finish.

I’ll have a real race recap later on, but I made it and I am so happy! I couldn’t have done it without the constant support of my friends and family, and I can’t believe it’s already over. Once the race started, I was so excited to be out there running again nothing else mattered. I took in every little moment: the sunrise over the foggy Potomac, the determined forms of runners zig zagging up a steep hill before me, and the sound of my own breath breathing steadily in and out, in and out.

A little bit of ankle pain set in around mile 18 but I started incorporating more walking and the pain never got any worse. Honestly, the course was so muddy in the last 9 miles or so it was IMPOSSIBLE to run. Every person I saw who tried to run through on the trail wiped out in front of me, and I knew if I went down I’d probably have a real rough time getting back up and going with the pain. So I did some speed walking with super-duper short steps cursing the mud under my breath every time I felt my feet lose traction beneath me, causing my already-sore muscles to tense with the thought of falling down.

When the finish line was finally in sight, you couldn’t wipe the smile off my face if you tried. I was excited and so happy to finish with relatively little peroneal pain. It was 92 degrees out (seriously, what the HELL was up with this weekend’s weather?!) and I still felt relatively fine hydration/nutrition wise. The most painful part of the day was the two blisters I formed on my heels in the last 10 miles – probably from the slipping in the mud and friction caused. No lie – my heels are STILL pulsating and I’ve never had this problem with my shoes/socks before.

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So, now what? I saw my doctor the day before the 50k, and he checked my ankle/fibula for any stress fractures and I’m good. He recommended taking some down time after the race to let any inflammation in my peroneal to go down, and I’ll be starting more extensive PT tomorrow. I still have my eyes on my 57 mile charity run in November, and I’ll be starting training back up in June. This month, I’d like to get back into a routine of not only running, but cross training and strengthening CONSISTENTLY. If tendonitis has taught me anything, this diversity in my training is going to be vital. I’m also looking for a coach to help get me through this summer/fall healthy for my event. But I guess we’ll see. And of course (because I always say this), I’ll try to update my blog more regularly.

Look forward to my 50k race recap soon and once I begin training regularly again, I’ll try to post updates every week or so. For now, it’s rest and recover time. And believe me, my legs need it.

 

Setting New Standards.

I’ve changed.

For me, this is always a hard thing to admit, because I’m one of those individuals who clings to how things used to be. Living with Lyme disease has made me rethink my priorities and what I do from day to day. It’s been hard for me to accept my new self because I’ve gone from being a person who used to focus on everyone but myself, to a person who finally puts myself first. And it feels selfish.

A lot of times I feel like I am disappointing friends. I skip outings because of headaches, I can’t “party” anymore, and I go to bed early to save all my energy for running. My 57 mile run is always looming in the back of my mind and I’m so focused on getting to the start line nothing else seems to matter sometimes. This past weekend was Dave’s birthday and I felt a sense of sadness when I could not really participate in the celebrations. The Old Me would have tried to put down just as many drinks as the guys. But the New Me decided it would be best to nurse the same beer I had been holding for quite a few hours because even one beer can trigger a headache now.

I am mourning who I used to be before Lyme. The girl who always had energy to get everything done on her to-do list, the girl who could stay out late and drink like the rest of my friends. I used to clean, cook, run, write, work and socialize. Now, when I wake up I feel like I am drawing straws and hoping I don’t get the shortest. Usually, I can only cross one thing off my to-do list and this is devastating to me. I almost always pick running unless I feel overwhelmingly sick. And this makes me feel so guilty.

Recently, I went for a 17 mile trail run along the Potomac River on a balmy Saturday morning. It was only me out on the trail and I felt a calming sense of solitude. Running seems to be the only thing I do right anymore and it makes me  feel whole. Alive. I could see my breath cloud before me with every exhale and my throat was numb, coated with the cold air. I was surrounded by silence. No chirping birds, no rustling in the leaves, and no wind causing the branches to scratch and claw one another. Just me.

I used to feel uncomfortable in the silent woods. I used to constantly feel like I was being watched or unwelcome. But on this day, I finally felt one with the trail I’ve devoted so many hours to, and running here felt natural. I walked the uphills, I took my time to hop stone by stone over a frigid looking creek, and I stopped often to look across the Potomac at the beautiful landscape. When I trail run I become so detached from civilization and it’s what I love best. Nothing matters except keeping my breath steady, putting one foot in front of the other, and making sure to keep myself fueled. I don’t have to prove myself to anyone but myself. And because trail running is something still relatively new to me, I can keep my expectations in check.

The run was hard. My legs were fatigued from 15 miles the day before, but still I managed to push myself and complete 17. I wanted nothing more than to quit at 5 miles, but the trail kept urging me forward. I wanted to make it farther than I had the weekend before and explore where I hadn’t stepped foot yet. So even though I was tired, I let the trail entice me and pull me along with new twists and turns and it was beautiful. Beautiful I had pushed through the mental wall, and beautiful I proved I could do it.  As I ran down the finishing straight with 17 miles in the bank, a smile spread wide across my face. My legs hurt, but I was accomplished.

It’s important for me to look back on these moments where my Lyme isn’t in control. There are many things I cannot do any longer, but trail running shows me there are many things I WILL do and accomplish in my future. It’s not an easy path, but my treatment and management of symptoms is just another step in my journey.

There are many things I like about the New Me, despite being a little insecure about what others think of me and Lyme disease. I like I can stand up for myself now, I know how to say no, and I still find balance between being social and completely secluding myself. It’s only taken me 27 years to learn :)!

So that’s it for now. It’s been awhile since I posted, and I apologize. It goes back to what I was saying in the above paragraphs – I honestly haven’t had the energy to do much more than work and run. I want to do SO MANY things, but my body often says no.

Because I missed doing a weekly training update, I’ll try to post one tomorrow and combine the past two weeks. Next week is my Ultra Ragnar Relay and I am SO EXCITED, but also very very sore from two hard weeks of training. I’ll probably modify my training for the next few days and keep it incredibly easy up to the race. I want to enjoy it as much as I can!

 

 

Masking the Invisible Illness

Slowly the room comes into focus. Blinking once or twice, I stretch my arms over my head as I try to assess how I’m feeling this morning.  Is my headache still raging?  Are my knees still aching?  Can I feel my hands and toes?  As my alarm begins blaring again, I rip the warm covers back and place my cold feet on the wooden floor.  It’s another day, and I’m never sure what’s in store.

After waking, I shuffle from my bed to the bathroom and I can feel every ache in my body, starting from the feet up.  The running probably doesn’t help, but some of the pain I know is from a tired body, one constantly fighting against itself.

When I look in the mirror, I see the same me I’ve seen for years staring back.  I certainly don’t look sick, I tell myself.  Maybe my face is a little paler than most, my hair thinner than it’s ever been, but to anyone out in the world, I look normal.  Most people don’t notice the trembling in my hands when I’m helping them at work, or how I drop boxes all the time because I can’t feel my fingers.  Most people don’t know when I’m smiling and trying to act normal I often have a searing headache pulsing in my skull, and light sensitivity so great when I turn to look out the window the pain radiates through my head like a lightning bolt.

Morning means my first dose of medicine.  On any given day I have about 14 different medicines/supplements I need to take, all spread out from breakfast to dinner.  These days, I’m grateful not to be on the three antibiotics anymore, which often made me feel like a zombie, and sometimes forced me to stay in bed.  As much as I wish I could say I am used to taking my medicine (I’ve been in treatment for about four months now), I’m still not.  I hate dragging the bottles around with me everywhere I go, like some new appendage on me impossible to hide.  I feel ashamed.  I feel as if my illness is something meant to hide.  Growing up, I wasn’t taught to show any vulnerabilities – I was taught to be strong, even when I didn’t feel it.  Toting around pills, avoiding certain foods, opting out of outings with friends because I’m not feeling well – I despise having my weaknesses written on my sleeve for all to see.

On average, by the end of the day I’ve usually taken 16-18 different pills and about 149 drops of several liquid herbal medicines.  These are the good days I actually remember to take everything.  There are other times where I’m much more forgetful and pass out in bed after a long day of work without taking my final doses.  There have been other times where I feel a sense of sadness from all the pill popping, and in a day or two of denial, I don’t take any medicine.  Those are always the worst days.

To top it off, I’ve been very forgetful lately.  Sometimes, I’ll be telling myself over and over again a task I need to do, and in the process of getting ready to do whatever is needed, the thought slips from my mind like an elusive shadow sneaking back into the comfort of the dark.  The brain fog is heavy.  I see the world through clouded lens and often feel like I can’t put together sentences or see things right in front of me.  This is probably the hardest part, especially for writing.  As someone who used to have the words flow so freely from my mind, I struggle the most with not being able to articulate my thoughts as clearly as I used to before I got sick.

When I was first diagnosed, I tried to hide behind a mask of normalcy.  After all, this isn’t my first go-round struggling with an invisible illness, so I know the song and dance well.  In the past when I struggled badly with depression, I always wanted to appear happy to others even when I was in an incredibly dark place.  I hid it so well I went years without help.  Until I finally broke.

I wear the same constricting mask with lyme because I don’t want people to know I hurt.  I don’t want to be seen differently.  But more and more, I am taking this mask off and letting myself breathe free.  I don’t want to break again.  I now know, unlike I did before, it’s okay for others to know you’re hurting or struggling.  It’s okay to need help.

For the first time in my life I’ve spoken freely about my struggles.  And what I’ve discovered by being so open is I have a lot more support on my side.  Even when I’m having an off day, instead of wallowing in self pity I’m more apt to give myself a break.  Sometimes I have to laugh at myself, especially with the forgetfulness, even though it frustrates me to no end.  Laughing is an important part of my recovery.  It keeps me grounded and helps me realize what’s most important in life.

So, while every day may present a new challenge, I’m up for it.  Training for my 57 mile run scares me, but that’s how I know it’s so important.  This event is going to change my life, and I know I won’t be the same person 57 miles later when I enter Bucknell’s track as I was earlier in the morning, standing on Penn State’s track.  This change will be good.  And raising money for Global Lyme Alliance may help change the lives of many others struggling with lyme and struggling to get a proper diagnosis.

There are many invisible illnesses out there and this is just my story.  But there are so many others wearing masks just like me.  And while we try to hide these weaknesses and appear “normal” (whatever normal really is), dealing with lyme has helped me find a strength within I never knew existed.  I am stronger than I ever have been before.

And from here I’ll continue to grow.

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© Allison Donaghy 2017 All Rights Reserved

 

Finding the Meaning Again

Lately, I’ve been searching for some meaning in life.  The past few weeks I felt constant aching – my heart, bones and mind – it didn’t matter.  There was a feeling of profound sadness I’m not sure why presented itself.  Lyme aside, I have nothing to be sad about.  Yet I felt it consuming me; ravenous, relentless.

All my life, I’ve always been at least a little sad.  Starting long before high school, the world began to look much different to me than it did to my naive child-self.  I was acutely aware of family struggles and whenever life was overwhelming my friends.  And all I ever wanted to do was help.  Draining every ounce of my emotions, it did not matter if I gave them to everyone else.  It did not matter if I was empty.  It only mattered if I could make someone smile or stop the hurt within them.

Last week, as I was driving down 110 to get blood work done, I saw a beautiful sunrise.  I haven’t seen the sunrise in some time now because all it seems I do anymore is sleep, but I watched as the purple sky in front of me came to life, and I felt a flicker of hope.  The rising sun reflected off the glass windows on the tallest office building in Rosslyn and the whole city seemed sparkling.  The orange glass looked like it was on fire, and when I glanced in my rear view mirror the sky was so bright it hurt my eyes.

After what seemed to be such a bleak few weeks, I smiled.  I was reminded there is beauty in this world, the fullness I seek.  I just need to know where to look.

This week I’ve decided to stop moping around and get back to LIVING.  Fresh off a recovery run week, I’m ready to train hard and get back to a healthier lifestyle.  Everything has suffered these past three weeks: my health, my diet, and my relationships.  But it’s 2017 now (yikes!).  There’s no time for messing around anymore.

While I’ve been gluten-free ever since being diagnosed with Lyme disease I’ve had my fair share of slip-ups these past few weeks.  Some were deliberate while others were complete accident, like the time for whatever reason I assumed vegan mac and cheese would also be gluten-free!  I’ll say all in all I probably slipped up three times total, but each time certainly did not help my health.  In my sadness, plant-based eating fell to the wayside, which is REALLY unfortunate because I felt my best without meant and most dairy.

But I’m back at it.

Sometimes, the sadness feels cyclical.  It’s no secret I’ve struggled with depression in the past.  So I monitor it.  I’ve always believed it is okay to feel, to be sad sometimes.  Often, I appreciate happiness the most when I know the deeper emotions I’ve felt before.

So with that being said, the past few days have been going much better for me.  I am following a near-vegan diet (I eat eggs occasionally) and I already have more energy and clear-headedness.  It is not easy, but I have been saving a bunch of recipes online to try some time in the future (not to mention – my cousin Natalie’s amazing vegan blog – https://rootedwithlife.blog).

As for training – it’s going.  My mileage is still relatively low but I hope to change that soon.  This week I am focusing on some speed work and some semi-long runs but I honestly play every day by ear.  I’ve started a few new medicines I’m increasing slowly but they’re wreaking havoc on my stomach.  There is only so much I can do.

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The troublemakers.

What I’ve also been thinking about lately is the purpose of this blog.  While I like using it as a spot to only write when I feel inspired, I feel it needs a greater purpose, especially with my 57 mile charity run coming up in November.  So if I can manage I think I’ll post a training update at the end of each week to track my journey toward the 57 miles from Penn  State to Bucknell in November.  I don’t know if I’ll push the content out on FaceBook each week so if you are interested in getting updates on my running, make sure to follow my blog.  I’ll still post my regular writing-sort blogs, but since I’m so inconsistent I feel a weekly update will be nice, especially for those interested in my ultra running journey.

So that’s it for now.  I’ll be going off my antibiotics soon and I am SUPER PUMPED about it.  I’m going to really focus on trying to get a quality week of training in even though I’ve been battling a little bit of mysterious foot pain.  It may be cuboid syndrome (I’ve dealt with it before) but we will see.  I’m headed up to New Jersey for a few days Thursday night so I plan on seeing my physical therapist I used to. go to from high school to my days as a collegiate athlete.  She’s seen everything from me, and helped me overcome so much back then, so I’m just excited to see her in general.

Hopefully I’ll have a post about it later this week.  Check back soon!

 

© Allison Donaghy 2017 All Rights Reserved

Holding Strong for 2017

Alright, I’m in a funk.  It’s taken me a bit to admit to this.

Usually, this is one of my favorite times of the year.  I love the colder air, overcast skies and Christmas lights illuminating the darker nights.  Shorter days – they’ve never bothered me.  I loved walking home from the bus stop after a hard day of track practice in high school and feeling the coldness seep through my layers of clothing.  The chilly air feels fresher to me and the nights are quieter with an indescribable stillness.  With the cold air, I can actually think.

But lately, I feel a little lost.  The air seems biting, and my hands are always numb and shaking.  I don’t feel the happiness I usually feel encompassing me.  Maybe it’s because this time of year, around Christmas, used to be so full of tradition.  My sisters and I would migrate home to New Jersey where my mom would have the house decked out with multiple shining trees and decorations galore.  On Christmas Eve my father, Erin and I would head out into the dark for our annual lights run, and we would run loops around the neighborhood where Erin and I had logged countless rhythm mile workouts in high school.  We’d rate the houses in numerous categories according to the types of decorations, and at the end we’d crown a grand champion, unbeknownst to them.

We’d come home chilled and starving, and my mom always had a warm dinner waiting for us.  We’d light a fire in the fireplace and watch Scrooge on the couch until my mom and dad would fall asleep, and then my sisters and I would stay up all night sipping beers and giggling, watching Christmas movies until we stumbled off to bed.

But of course, there’s change.  And while I know it’s okay for things to be different, sometimes I find myself still grasping at the past, desperately trying to hang on to how things used to be.

This past Thanksgiving my family gathered in Florida to celebrate and I can only describe it as chaotic.  I felt pulled in a million directions and the stress made me feel even more sick.  I felt disconnected from my family because I couldn’t drink and eat with them, even though this shouldn’t matter at all.  All I felt I could do to connect to how things used to be was run.  Run down the streets I’ve run for 16 years and feel the merciless Florida sun bear down on me like it always has.

I’m ready for this year to be over.  2017 is going to be a big one, and I’m ready for a reset, even if New Years is just a mental start over.  Last week I was lucky enough to meet with a good friend and former colleague over coffee and through chatting, he helped me organize some of my goals for the New Year.

2017 Goals

  1. Start writing my memoir again (at least 4x a week)
  2. Attend a writer’s conference this summer
  3. Finish my first ultra marathon
  4. Run the 57 miles from Penn State to Bucknell in November and raise money for Lyme Disease research and advocacy

Speaking of running/training – it’s going alright.  I’ve been feeling kinda sick for the past week or so, so my training is suffering but I’m still getting out there.  Lately, I’ve been having a million body/bone aches and it’s not doing any favors to my already arthritic knee.  I’m averaging around 24-26 miles a week, and while it might not seem like a lot, I get a lot of quality runs in when it counts. I’m going to try and up the mileage slowly and really get back into consistent cross training to make up the mileage deficient.

In 2017 I’m also considering getting a coach.  My run from Penn State to Bucknell is SO important to me and I’ve had success being coached in the past.  I’ll do anything to get to the start line.

This past weekend I was in Penn State for Dave’s cousin’s graduation.  Saturday morning I found myself running to the track in the ice, so I could get a glimpse at where I’ll start my 57 mile journey in November.  It was a chilly morning but I stood and looked at the snow covered track for a few minutes and visualized myself on the start line strong and healthy.  My father always told me there’s great power in visualizing success.

So that’s where I am right now.  Moving forward slowly but surely, dealing with treatment as best I can.  I should only be on my antibiotics for four more weeks and then I’ll continue on with my vast collection of supplements.  I don’t want to sound too negative, because I DO have good days.  But I can only take it day by day.  Lyme is throwing way more curveballs into my training than I expected, and I’m just beginning here.  But I’ll adjust and I won’t give up.  My heart won’t let me.

Happy Holidays everyone.  I’ll see you in the New Year!

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© Allison Donaghy 2016 All Rights Reserved

Finding my Stride.

Ah, it’s been awhile.  I owe an update of sorts, although I feel as if I’m running the same circles.  Thanksgiving has come and past and my Florida travels are over.  I’m exhausted, to say the least.  But things are just beginning for me.

In my last post, I announced my decision to run the 57 miles from Penn State to Bucknell at Homecoming 2017 to raise money for Lyme disease research and awareness.  While I still haven’t decided if I’ll be running November 2 or 3, I have decided I’ll be raising money for the Global Lyme Alliance.  Not only does GLA fund Lyme disease research, but they also raise awareness of lyme and its complexity among the public AND doctors.  The first blood test I ever had when I began feeling sick over a year and a half ago was for lyme but my physician told me it was negative, despite several flags.  Had she been more lyme-literate, I could have saved thousands of dollars and saved myself from plenty of pain.

So, training begins.  I’d like to say I’ve built myself a pretty decent base, but I’m always hesitant.  Last week I hit my highest mileage week since my stress fracture and I feel great.  (Ok, I’m a little sore from over-doing it lifting weights for the first time in many months, but that’s besides the point).  I’m being super flexible with my runs right now.  Everything depends on how I’m feeling from my medications, and I’m trying to learn how to slow myself down.  This is imperative, and I’ve been failing on my own at this.  I had my twin sister, Erin, pace me for my first 10 miler this past Sunday (she’s an Ironman and her pacing for endurance events is ON POINT) and although it was difficult for me to stick to a slower pace at first, it was nice to finish with some fuel in the tank.  Practice makes perfect, right?

Around lunch today I headed out for an 11 miler even though I’d been feeling sick all morning and I wasn’t sure what to expect.  It’s been a few days since my last run and as I started out in the much-colder-weather-than-Florida, I wasn’t feeling good.  Within the first two miles I thought about turning around and calling it quits.  But as I ran down the C&O canal in complete solitude, something changed.

My breathing slowed.  My shoulders relaxed.  My stomach didn’t seem to hurt as much.  In the silence of the tow path I let my mind wander, tentatively allowing myself to reach into the past and think of long-gone runs on the Princeton Delaware & Raritan canal with Erin and my dad.  It’s always the chilly mornings I remember, the ones where we were so cold we ran the first mile too fast, just to warm our bones.  I remembered looking across the Millstone River at the great Princeton mansions and my father saying maybe one day, if I became a famous author, I could own one of those houses.

Today, the bare, shivering trees and deserted tow path reminded me of those early morning long runs in Princeton and it gave my mind the fuel to continue.  I didn’t know it then, but those runs with Erin and my dad were special.  There was a magical feeling running down that tow path, chattering about nothing and everything, urging each other along, I’ve yet to be able to reproduce.  And while I’m grateful I was able to run with both Erin and my Dad again this past thanksgiving – it wasn’t the same.  Change isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I know we could all feel some of the magic was gone.  When we used to run, we let everything go so we could be free and happy.  This thanksgiving no one could let go.  I felt our worries, anxieties, precautions hanging over us with every step in the Florida heat.

I’ve come a long way since my early-teenager days running in Princeton, but I had something back then I didn’t know to appreciate: innocence.  No one had told me yet I needed to lose weight to continue being a competitive runner.  No one was judging me.  Life hadn’t sucker-punched me yet like it would in high school, and all I knew was the happiness running with my dad and twin produced.

So today, I let go.  The miles ticked by as I zoned out and listened to each soft footfall, and my even breath in and out.  My aches and pains didn’t matter, and I pretended I was plodding down the tow path in Princeton, making my way back to the car with Erin and dad so we could head into downtown and get hot chocolate.  Today, I only cared about being happy during the short portion of my day I have the privilege to dedicate to nature and running.  When I finished 11 miles I wasn’t surprised.  FINALLY – I found my stride.

And I’m excited for my runs to come.

This morning I committed and signed up for the DC NorthFace Endurance Challenge 50k, April 29.  It’s going to be my first ultra (if you don’t count the ultra Ragnar Relay about a month before) and I’m so excited.  It feels good having a few races on the calendar again, even if they’re a long way off.  Since deciding to run the 57 miles to Bucknell, I feel my running has purpose again.

So stay tuned!  I’m still sorting out when I’ll actually launch my fundraising campaign with GLA and I want to get better at posting more frequently.  I’d like to do some vlogging for you guys one of these days but yeah, not sure how it would exactly go.  If you’re ever looking for more frequent updates on my training, I like to update my Instagram a lot more than this blog – @amd022.

‘Til next time!

 

© Allison Donaghy 2016 All Rights Reserved

 

The 57 miles from Penn State to Bucknell

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photo I took of sunset over campus in 2008

It is hard to believe 2017 marks five years since I graduated from Bucknell.  Like many individuals realize after graduation, there are so many aspects of college I miss.  There was always something to do, something to learn, and I loved having a community of friends all around me.  And because I was a part of the cross country team, I had a close circle of great friends at my doorstep who loved most of the things I did (running, obviously) and had similar priorities.

I’ve made a lot of changes in my life since I graduated back in 2012, the most being just in the past year.  I left a job where I was unhappy, I got married,  I started running again, I got sick, I found a diagnosis, and I started putting myself first.  None of this has been easy (except the getting married part – 100% sure on that one) but life isn’t about making easy choices.  And as we close on 2016 and I struggle to deal with treating my Lyme disease, I’ve realized now more than ever, I want to make a difference.

This past weekend I was back in New Jersey for a best friend’s wedding.  The weather was perfect, and Erin and I hit up all our favorite running stomping grounds.  We ran in Thompson Park, where I used to speed along the reservoir trail hopping roots expertly, the trail memorized from repetition.  Thompson was my place of solace, the trails seemingly hidden from the world.  It was a place I could think and rebuild myself when feeling broken.  This weekend, as we gingerly picked our way through the layers of fallen leaves hiding the treacherous roots we no longer knew, the sharp memories of high school flooded to the surface.  The past is a complicated place to tread.

I’ve always been great at keeping secrets, but the ones I kept in high school were often detrimental to my health.  My depression, anxiety and disordered eating are issues which affected me deeply and shaped my life for many years.  Few people knew, and eventually I overcame these challenges but not before first seeking help.  And that’s why last year I set out to write a memoir about these challenges in hopes I can make a difference in others’ lives.  And even though this goal has been derailed by my lyme, it’s one I won’t give up on. Even if my story helps just one person, I’d consider it a success.  Those challenges helped shape who I am as a person but what I didn’t know then is I didn’t have to go at it alone.

Lyme disease is just one more challenge in my life I will overcome.

After thompson park, when we got back to the hotel that night, we switched on the TV to try and unwind.  But it was broken.  We snickered quietly as hilarious pixelated images tried to come to surface on the screen and eventually the maintenance man gave up and brought in an entirely new TV.  He switched on the TV and flipped to a random channel and I watched as a giant deer tick flashed to the screen.  It was a news clip about the seriousness and complexity of lyme, and the newscaster shared the story of a young girl struggling with the disease.  Our laughing stopped.  We watched silently as this girl’s story was shared.  For years she went undiagnosed, and among other complications, lost her ability to walk.

I’m not going to say this story made me realize how much worse others have it or how lucky I am, because I already knew this.  What I did realize is I am still avoiding accepting I actually have lyme.  Despite the many pills I take every day, my doctor’s diagnosis, and the sickness I feel, I’ve been avoiding looking up any lyme disease resources or acknowledging my feelings.  The girl’s story made me feel an overwhelming sadness. It took many years for her to get a diagnosis.  In comparison, it took me only a year and although this felt like a lifetime to me, I’m grateful I had the knowledge to get further testing before my health got worse.  Watching her story re-lit a fire inside of me – the one that wants to make a difference.

So, let’s go back to those 57 miles in the title of this post.  Pretty much my entire four years at Bucknell, I dated a member of the men’s cross country team (he’s now my husband!) and I learned about many xc traditions they upheld.  But only one always stood out in my mind.  It involved one or more seniors running from the Penn State track to the Bucknell track at the end of the outdoor track season.  I don’t know why they did it or how long ago it started, but each year I was there it happened.  No one trained specifically for it – they just ran.  It is 57 miles of hard-earned tradition.  And one I’ve always wanted to be a part of.

2017 Bucknell Homecoming will be November 3-5, and it will be the five year marker for me.  In celebration (and a bout of insanity), I’ve decided I will be running the 57 miles from Penn State to Bucknell.  I haven’t decided if I’ll run November 2 or 3, but my main goal for this run is to raise money for lyme disease research.  I’ve yet to pick the foundation I’ll be donating the money to (I’ve got it narrowed down between two non-profits – I’ll choose soon) but once I decide, you’ll be sure to see a post.

This won’t be easy and I’ll be the first to admit I’m afraid.  But when I think about all the challenges I’ve already overcome in my life, I know I can do this if I train smart and listen to my body.  I have just about a year to train for this event and get my fundraising in order and honestly as much as I’m nervous I’m also excited.  After all, it’s good to be nervous about things.  It means you care.

So how will I do this?  I’ll be ramping up the mileage slowly and taking time to cross train when I feel too sick/tired to run.  I’m going to start strengthening again.  And I have only two other races on my 2017 schedule strategically planned to help get me used to longer distances.

In March I’ll be racing the Tennessee Ragnar Relay as part of an ultra team.  If training is going alright, I plan on taking one of the higher mileage positions so I’ll end up running 30+ miles over the course of 24 hours.  Then in April I’ll be racing the DC Northface 50k.  It will be my first “real”  ultra and my training for this race started this week!  Hokas will be my best friend.

I’m not even going to pretend like I think this training will go smoothly, especially with the absurd amount of medication I’m currently taking.  My biggest (and most important) challenge for training will be NUTRITION and learning what my body will accept pre, during and after runs. But I’m not going to give up on any of this.  Even though my body may physically not be at its prime, my strong mentality has always been what gets me through distance running.

Sooooo, save the date for Homecoming 2017 because it’s going to be amazing.  If you have any interest in being a part of my support team that day, or if you’re a Bucknell Alum and want to run portions of it with me, please don’t hesitate to message me.  I have a year to get this all figured out, which seems like a long time, but I know it will fly by.  I just couldn’t sit on the idea any longer!

Look forward to updates about my training and the non-profit I choose to fundraise for.  I’ve never done anything like this before in my life, so if you have any tips I welcome your feedback.