Hello, It’s Me.

HI.

It’s been a HOT MINUTE since I’ve last updated! I always feel so guilty when I haven’t updated in a while, but it’s not because lack of passion to write. It’s a lack of time. Since my last update after visiting Bucknell, things have gotten incredibly busy for me. I’ve struggled a bit, but have also had some amazing triumphs. It’s absolutely shocking to me it’s already August.

Since my last update, I’ve been in a funk of sorts. Leaving Bucknell, I felt empty. While it was so much fun returning to my “home away from home” and seeing so many friends and familiar faces, it also got me thinking.  It was amazing to hear all these stories of what other alumni were doing in their communities since graduating, but I also sat there wondering, what have I done? And I guess that’s sort of a complex right there, comparing your life to others, but I’m not afraid to admit I do it from time to time. It wasn’t a comparison like, oh I wish I was them, but more of a reflection on myself of the potential I have to also do amazing things. But as Erin and I drove away from Bucknell I couldn’t fathom how to change, make a difference, and most importantly, make things happen.

So, I fell into a dark place for a bit.  I stopped taking my supplements. I stopped cooking nutritious meals. I felt constantly tired, broken. When I made it out for my runs every step hurt and I couldn’t even fathom 57 miles, let alone the six I was supposed to do for the day. I slept a lot, and fell into a routine unbeneficial to me or those around me. Maybe my body needed it because of the Lyme, but I have a sneaking suspicion it was my mind needing it more.

And then Dave and I went to Washington state. Our trip was booked in a bit of a rush, because we thought Dave was starting a job in Ocean City at the end of July, but we still had great aspirations for the trip. I couldn’t wait to get out into the mountains. The mountains make me feel my happiest. It doesn’t matter the state or the mountain range – I love the feeling of how small they make you feel.  You feel insignificant, but at peace. You can finally realize what a great, big, BEAUTIFUL world it is out there, and how there is so much more to life than just trying to “get by” through your daily grind.

While in Washington we hiked almost every day once we left Seattle. We hiked through ancient forests, up steep mountain sides and along the magnificent Pacific Ocean. A lot of the times we were out there early in the morning before any of the tourists were awake, and we trudged along single track trails in silence, lost in thought. I worked so many problems out in my head as I hiked through Mt. Rainier National Park and Olympic National Park.

Life felt pure.

And now it’s mid August. Happily, I’m finally coming out of my funk and starting to really get after living life again. It’s no secret I’ve never really enjoyed living in the Washington, D.C., area, but I’m adamantly trying to find the beauty and fun in living here. For awhile, I let myself think I couldn’t have fun with my friends anymore because of my Lyme, and I thought I would never feel well enough to do all the things I used to. But after Washington, and hiking day after day and also running almost every day, I realized my body can do a lot more than I credited it for. Which is great because you know, I’ve got that whole 57 miles to run thing.

Last weekend I went out with Dave and our friends and it was the first time in a LONG time that I spent the day bar hopping (granted, I wasn’t drinking) and genuinely having a good time. I wasn’t drinking during the day because I actually signed up to run a beer mile that evening in Navy Yard. I’ve always wanted to do a beer mile since college, but after being diagnosed with Lyme, I wrote it off as one of those things I could never do. But then I did it anyways. And it was amazing. And better yet, I had such a great night with all my friends, I’m still smiling thinking back on that day. I am so glad I listened to my friends to sign up and stopped listening to all the fears and the “I can’ts” in my head.

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Now, back to that whole thing of it being August again. It’s August 12. I have less than 3 MONTHS until my 57 mile run from Penn State to Bucknell raising money for Global Lyme Alliance, to fund better research and awareness. It makes me a little nervous, because I know November 2, will be here before I know it. I’m trying my hardest to be ready and my runs have been steadily increasing. It’s taken a long time, but I can feel my fitness finally returning.

I’m still managing some aches and pains in my lower legs, and physical therapy has been pivotal at keeping the tendonitis manageable. After 10 days of hiking in Washington State, my left Achilles and bad knee were NOT having it, but the discomfort is slowly getting better. Luckily, I had a down week in my training cycle this week and it’s been amazing. My achilles is still being a little bitchy, but I’m thinking I may get a sports massage soon to help work out some of the knots.

After this weekend my mileage is going to climb pretty high and while I’m nervous, I’m also really excited. Long runs are my thing. I love going slow and steady and taking all the time I need to get through the miles. They’re challenging, but I always feel so amazing afterwards. With my mileage getting pretty high in the next few months I know my nutrition is going to need to be on point. I’ve been gluten free since my lyme doctor suggested it, but I’ve actually been playing around with a plant-based (basically vegan) diet and have been feeling worlds better. Now, I’ve been having small amounts of gluten here and there (I still eat a predominately gluten-free diet…but hello beer mile) and I feel absolutely fine. Taking dairy out has helped me feel more clear-headed, helped take away my every day headaches, and I do feel like I recover a little faster from my workouts.

I feel like this blog post has been all over the place, but that’s just how it goes when I haven’t updated in forever. I seriouslyyyyy am going to try and update more frequently from here on out, especially because we are in the final push to my 57 mile run. I don’t think I’ll actually do weekly recaps of my workouts because it kind of stresses me out, but I will try to do a better job of keeping you guys in the loop.

So, that’s it for now. If you have any interest in learning more about my 57 mile run from Penn State to Bucknell, you can check out my info page HERE. You can also donate to my run HERE. I really would like to meet my fundraising goal so any help is much appreciated, and anything helps!

 

 

 

Visiting the Past.

Slowly, the small room comes into focus. I rub my eyes and roll over on the small cot of a bed, which I’ve been tossing and turning on all night.  My husband lays next to me, crammed up against the wall and I shake my head wondering how we used to share a twin bed comfortably like this back in college. In my rush to book housing for Bucknell Reunion, I forgot to book a double room for myself and Dave, and now we were paying the price. My phone vibrates loudly against the wooden desk and the room is so small I’m able to reach my arm across the floor and grab my phone while staying sprawled in bed. There’s a slight ache in my head and my throat feels incredibly dry.  It’s an odd familiarity, this situation – the feeling as if I have done this same act plenty of times before. That’s when I realize it – I’m hungover.

The text messages are from Erin.  Are we riding or what? I’ve been on the trainer since 6 AM. 

The last thing I trust myself doing is navigating my little road bike on the rainy roads outside but I enthusiastically reply yes! anyways. After all, we’re at Bucknell. And riding the old country roads we used to race down five years ago is so enticing I can’t pass the opportunity up. It takes about 25 minutes for me to pull myself together. Before I know it, Erin and I are standing in the narrow hallway outside my dorm room with our bikes, getting ready to head out for our ride. The hall even smells like my time at college.

“How’d you sleep?” I ask.

“Like shit,” Erin replies, “If we ever come back for Reunion weekend again, we are NOT staying in the dorms.”

I nod my head in agreement and try to get myself to focus on anything other than my headache. Because of lyme treatment, it’s been close to eight months since I’ve come anywhere near to being tipsy, let alone drunk.

“I’m not feeling the greatest so I don’t know how this ride is going to go,” I admit to Erin, “I’m definitely hungover. Or still drunk. I don’t know.”

“Ah. Bucknell,” is all Erin says in response, a smile on her face as she begins wheeling her bike toward the door.  It’s a simple reply, but it’s perfect. There are no other words and it is the perfect explanation.

It’s a chilly, wet morning but the rain has stopped. I shiver for the first ten minutes of the ride until we cross the Susquehanna river and begin hauling hard down the road. Everything clicks. I feel like I have been thrown back into time as we pass farm after farm on our left and catch glimpses of the susquehanna through the heavy tree-line on the right. Water from Erin’s back wheel sprays up into my face and I try not to panic about riding on wet roads when I can’t even remember the last time I took my bike out at home on a dry road, NOT hungover. But as we turn off the main road and disappear along the small country roads, I find myself unable to stop smiling. I feel at home. Free and happy.

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We begin climbing. Erin easily leaves me behind on the hill as I huff and puff, switching through my gears and hopping out of the saddle – trying anything to get myself to the top.   I’m reminded how badly out of cycling shape I am, especially compared to my days at Bucknell when I used to be the one to leave Erin behind. But when I get to the top, Erin and I both stop and look out quietly at the valley before us. Fog sweeps through the farmland and the rolling hills of the Appalachian range surround us. My heart swells. This is where I fell in love with cycling as a student. And I find it happening all over again.

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Going back to Bucknell was a lot like going back in time. While there are definitely changes to campus, most of it looks the same to when I was a student, and upon arrival, Erin and I fell into a similar routine as one we would have had as seniors. After checking in, we threw our belongings into our dorm rooms and immediately headed out for a run. We ran down the quiet roads we used to run every day at school, whether for xc practice or for our own solace. I had forgotten about how peaceful the roads are, how hilly they are, and how satisfying it felt to leave the busy city-life behind. Ten miles later, when Erin and I were sated from re-exploring our old stomping grounds, we showered, got dressed up and headed out for a drink. Just like we would have five years ago.

I have so many amazing memories from my time at Bucknell. My life changed there and what I learned helped shape the person I am today. I met my husband. I met some of the best friends I have in my life today, and I learned how to have a voice for myself. But most importantly, I learned how to love myself. When I first got to Bucknell in August 2008, I was not a healthy person and I wasn’t living life. But after being at school for a few months, I wanted to make a change. Bucknell and some of the people I met helped me see how beautiful life is, and helped me want to be a part of it again. And for that, I am forever grateful.

And while I have these great memories from Bucknell and had a wonderful transformation, not everything was perfect. So, as Erin and I stood on the Sojka Lawn at our welcome back reception, we were acutely aware of how alone we were. Many familiar faces floated past as we huddled next together sipping our drinks, but no one from all our small network was present. Most of Erin’s friends were in the geology department and couldn’t make it back. Most of my friends were on the cross country team or Dave’s year, and also couldn’t make it back. Fraternity and sorority life at Bucknell is enormous, and we watched as these brothers and sisters congregated together in the same exact groups I used to see mill around campus. Erin and I never joined a sorority. For a moment, I realized what it felt like to be on the outside again.

It wasn’t until the next day after Erin and I finished our fateful bike ride did we catch up with some friends. Erin and I walked around campus to see the new buildings and I revisited the track I plan to finish my 57 mile run on in November. There was a lot of, “remember this…” and “remember that…” as familiar sights evoked vibrant and often funny memories at school. There were also a lot of, “I miss this.”

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Toward the end of my senior year, I couldn’t wait to graduate and get into the “real world.” I wanted to leave because after Dave graduated, I felt isolated from the cross country and track team, and struggled to make any other friends. Standing on campus during reunion weekend, I realized I had no idea how good we had it, and how I should have cherished every second there.

Dave, Erin and I watched the sunset on the quad that evening, sipping wine as the blue sky melted into hues of yellow and pink along the mountain range. I didn’t want to leave the next day. I felt safe. Happy. How had it been five years already? We spent the rest of the night dancing and drinking like we were students again.

The next day Erin and I woke up early, loaded the bikes onto the back of my car, and headed back to DC. As we drove through campus one final time, I felt sad to be leaving. There were so many times as a student I hopped into my car and blew through campus, leaving it behind like it was nothing. But only now that I’ve graduated and been in this real world for five years, do I realize how naive I was during these times. Waiting to turn onto Route 15, I took a final glance at Rooke Chapel in the rearview mirror. It’d be months before I heard those bells ring again. But it was okay, because I at least knew I’d be back.

All in all, I’m happy I went back for reunion weekend. I’ve been in a funk lately, but being back at Bucknell helped me work through a lot of questions floating around my mind lately. I’m gaining motivation for my run again and inspiration for my writing. It’s baby steps. Sometimes, it’s nice to revisit the past so you can remember what made you the way you are today, and help you realize the only way to stay strong is to keep fighting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Living with Lyme

May is Lyme disease awareness month!

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Even though I’m at the end of the month here, I thought it would be timely to make a post about how lyme affects me.  Generally, I don’t really like talking about my symptoms or when I’m sick. I’ve always struggled with sharing my feelings and feeling vulnerable, in fear of disappointing friends and family. But now that I’ve decided to do the 57 mile run in November to raise money for Lyme disease research and awareness, it’s only fair I share a little more about the disease.

I share my symptoms NOT because I want you to feel sorry for me, but because lyme is often viewed as an invisible illness. Myself and many others who struggle with lyme often look perfectly “healthy” on the outside, even though inside our bodies are raging in war. I’m sharing my symptoms because it’s a difficult disease to understand because of it’s complexity, co-infections, and vast ways it affects every single person who’s been bitten.

HEADACHES/MIGRAINES 

This is my number one problem of late.  I can have anywhere between 3-5 headaches a week and they last ALL day.  Usually, I feel the pain building throughout the day like an angry thunderhead, so by the time I get home from work it feels crippling to move (fun!!!!). I have the pleasure of experiencing light and noise sensitivity with these headaches too, so once I feel one coming on, I need to get out of loud environments to lessen the building pain.

FATIGUE

Since treatment, my fatigue has definitely improved. I used to hardly be able to handle going to work, and whenever I got home I was so tired I could only lay on the couch and nap until it was time to go to bed. Luckily, now I’m able to workout, go to work, write, see friends and do some house chores without completely destroying myself, but I still take things day to day.  I know when I’m overdoing it when I start to have trouble getting out of bed in the morning again, and when I wake up feeling like utter crap.  I still have weeks when I feel horrible and can hardly do anything but drive myself to and from work, but luckily these have lessened.

The past two weeks I’ve been struggling with fatigue a lot. I’ve taken this time off from training, and even though taking a step back is EXTREMELY difficult for me, my body feels much better and rested now.  Treatment of my fatigue is bundled up in my many supplements and restrictive diet, and I’ve learned with I’m lax with my diet, my fatigue increases significantly.

INFLAMMATION

Ah, joint pain. But this isn’t the only way I experience inflammation. While I do ache periodically in my joints – usually my elbows, wrists, fingers, knees (especially my arthritic knee), and ankles – these aches honestly don’t bother me much.  A few years ago, because of inflammation in my scalp, I was diagnosed with diffuse areata alopecia by the Mayo Clinic.  Basically, my hair hates me and likes to come out. A lot.  While the intense hair loss has lightened up since starting treatment, my hair is still incredibly thin and comes out whenever it pleases. I don’t think I’ll ever have the head of hair I had back in high school/college. The hair loss used to bother me a lot more because I tied my conception of beauty with my long hair, but I know better now.

DIGESTIVE ISSUES

This really ties into the inflammation, but because my stomach has pained me the most, I decided to give it it’s own section. Before I was diagnosed with lyme, I was seeing doctors for my stomach issues and we believed I could have Crohn’s disease. While my stomach issues are 80% better than last year, they used to be intense. I couldn’t eat a lot of the times, I had horrible lower stomach cramping/pain, and my stomach was constantly upset.

While my blood work did flag for Crohn’s (something to do with the inflammation I came back positive for) all other testing came back negative.  I had SO MANY procedures, I can’t even remember what they all were called but I was clean on everything except my endoscopy.  During my endoscopy my doctor discovered I have metaplasia (cells changing) in my stomach.  This is still something I need to monitor and will most likely have another endoscopy this summer to make sure it’s not worsening.

Because of my digestive issues, I try to stick to a pretty particular diet.  I am gluten free (except for the occasional beer every few weeks I can’t seem to stay away from) and mostly dairy-free too (this is new).  I don’t really eat much meat anymore either.

Recently I had a KBMO FIT test because of some continued digestive issues and my headaches/fatigue. The test identifies foods likely to cause food sensitivity. Using a blood sample, IgG and complement reactions are measured against 132 foods and additives which cause delayed food sensitivity. Basically, this test was able to tell me which foods I’ve been eating have been causing an immune response in my stomach!

I had a high reaction to whole wheat, gluten and cranberries (seriously, wtf cranberries). A medium response to pears (again, wtf) and coffee – the no coffee has been crippling – and a low response to cow’s milk, rye, green olives, beets, sweet potatoes, cinnamon and pecans.  Some of this seems very random to me but for the most part, I’ve been working really hard to take these foods out of my diet. I’m going to try and follow the elimination diet more strictly over the next 4 weeks as I dive back into training for my 57 miler – so we’ll see how that goes.

Reducing inflammation in my stomach is a huge goal for me. When there’s a lot of inflammation there, my body doesn’t really absorb all the nutrients it needs to. I’m had low iron so many times I’ve lost count, but what’s more concerning to me (especially with all my running) is being able to absorb calcium/vitamin D to protect my bones. Anyone who is close to me knows I struggle with stress fractures and have been diagnosed with osteopenia in the past. I’d like to never worry about these things again.

Those are the big symptoms for me. While I do struggle with a few other issues, they have gotten better significantly since I first started treatment:

  • Trembling
  • Dizziness/balance issues
  • Eye floaters
  • numbness in my hands
  • random skin rashes

 

And I think that’s a wrap. Even though this is my case, I feel as if every story I read online about Lyme disease is different. And that’s why it’s so important for me to do my charity run in November to raise money for research and awareness. Some of the stories I read are absolutely heartbreaking – lives are forever changed. And these individuals are the ones who motivate me to run more than anything. The easiest way I’ve come to deal with the frustrations of lyme is through motivating myself to try and make a difference for those who have it so much worse than me, those who have struggled for so long just to find an answer.

I don’t view myself as sick anymore. Even though I have these outlasting symptoms, this is the strongest in a long time. My symptoms don’t define me because I know I will eventually conquer them. And more than ever, I want others to be able to conquer Lyme disease as well.

I guess my last note here is kinda a PSA you might not care to hear, but seriously, be aware of ticks when you’re outside this summer. They’re going to be bad this year and you can pick them up in your own backyard. Whenever I’m out running on trails I always stop and check myself after running through any overgrown paths, high grass, or wooded areas.  Your pets can pick them up too – I always remember finding ticks on my dog growing up, even though she was protected. Just be careful and protect yourself please!

Feel free to reach out to me if you ever have any questions about my journey with lyme. There’s a contact button on my homepage of the blog.

Thank you for reading – until next time!

 

 

Chasing my 57 mile dream

This week I finally took some steps toward making my 57 mile charity run from Penn State to Bucknell REAL.  I created my charity page!  For whatever reason, I was so nervous about creating it and pushing it out to my family and friends, but I think my anxieties over it shows just how important it is to me.  Lyme has been kicking my ass these past few days, so it feels good fighting back.

If you’d like to check out my charity page, you can find it HERE.  I’ve set a $5,000 goal, but I’ve also never done this before, and I’d like to dream bigger and raise more money.  But we’ll see how it goes! There’s still plenty of time – 9 months of training here I come.

If you want to read more about my story and why I decided to do this charity run (and why Penn State to Bucknell??) you can check out my page HERE.  I go a little bit more into my background with Lyme and why I’ve chosen this particular run.

That’s it for now…just wanted to send out this quick update since I feel like I’ve been so busy over the past few days getting everything ready.  If you have any questions, you can always reach out to me through the contact page.  I’ll also have a “real” blog post coming soon.  I’m hoping by Friday so look out for it :).

And as always – thank you for your support.  It means so much to me, I can’t even explain. I’m not very good at showing my emotions, but I received my first few donations yesterday and I actually teared up.  This run is extremely important to me and I am extremely determined to get to that Penn State track come November.

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

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.