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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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!

 

 

Ragnar Relay Tennessee Ultra Recap

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Stucco Running Club Ultra Club at the start!

It’s time to talk about Ragnar! I had SO MUCH fun this past weekend in Tennessee with my team as we raced from Chattanooga to Nashville as an Ultra team. I struggled a little bit out there for sure, but with the help of my team I was able to make it through all my legs right around the pace I projected myself hitting.

My team, Stucco Running Club Ultra Club, took seventh overall in the race, and we were the first Ultra team across the line (we are technically ranked in the men’s ultra division because we had 4 men and only 2 women). So, let’s just jump into the dirty details of what went right and what went wrong.

Wednesday Night (Pre-flight)
I could not sleep for the life of me. Most of it was from excitement, but as the time passed by, I started to stress out from my lack of sleep. I didn’t really sleep well at all Monday or Tuesday night so I started thinking about how the lack of sleep was going to affect me. I ended up getting five hours, but it really wasn’t enough.

Thursday – Day Before Start
Dave and I woke up at 3:45 AM with two of our teammates who spent the night, to get to the airport for our 6:00 AM flight. I didn’t even feel tired because I was so excited, and I couldn’t sleep on the plane.

I think the first mistake of the weekend came today. My stomach was really upset this morning (maybe from taking all my medicine at 3:45 AM? Something I never do?) and I couldn’t eat breakfast. I managed a protein bar but it made me want to throw up for a good 2 hours. By the time we landed in Nashville I was so focused on having some coffee, I didn’t get anything else to eat. While we waited for Erin and our other teammate’s flight to land, Dave and I went to pick up our snazzy 15 person van from the rental place in Nashville.

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pretty sunrise as we landed in Nashville

Once everyone landed we started our 2 hour drive down to Chattanooga. It was a really pretty drive as we went through some of the mountains, and then I realized we were going to be climbing right back through them the next day. It wasn’t until we neared Chatt and many hours later did I realize how hungry I was. Erin and I ate some pistachios while shopping for some race necessities in Walmart. Once we were done shopping we headed straight to the hotel to offload our stuff and immediately go out for lunch.

We ended up at a Panera and I had some tomato soup, salad, and potato chips. Honestly, not ideal the day before a race, but I told myself I would have a heartier dinner to make up for the lack of breakfast and lunch. We walked around the waterfront after lunch and Erin and I re-lived some Ironman memories from her race this past fall, and then we all tried to nap for a bit in the hotel. I only managed 15 minutes of sleeping in the hour I laid down.

We had team check-in at 6 PM, and I knew I wanted to squeeze a shake-out run in before we headed across the river. I hadn’t run since my massage on Wednesday, so I headed out the door with Erin and Jeremy for a veryyyyyyy slowwwww 2.5 mile shakeout. It was glorious. My legs felt amazing and it was such a beautiful evening for a run by the river. The shake-out made me feel confident and ready for the race the next day – my calves felt fine, my achilles were loosened up, and I didn’t really have much leg pain. I was so excited!

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Chattanooga!!! ❤

The rest of the day consisted of the team check-in and dinner. Erin, Jeremy and I ended up going to Whole Foods because we figured it would be my best option to find gluten-free and dairy-free options, but because it was later in the evening they didn’t have much out on their hot bar.  Even though the food I ate was really good, I knew it wasn’t enough. I should have gotten more, but because I wasn’t really hungry I just brushed it off and went back to the hotel to sleep.

FRIDAY – DAY ONE OF RAGNAR

Woke up around 8 AM after not a great night of sleep. It took me a super long time to fall asleep because of surrounding noises, and I forgot I had my ear plugs until 1 hour later into trying to fall asleep without them. Erin and Jeremy went down to breakfast and I stayed in bed, and actually managed another hour of undisturbed sleep before rolling out of bed to catch the free breakfast.

There wasn’t anything for me to eat at breakfast. I had a little box of Frosted Flakes and a banana, but nothing else offered was gluten free. I meant to make myself some gluten free bread with peanut butter when I got back to the hotel room, but I completely forgot while getting ready because we left all of our food in the car overnight.

We headed over to the race start around 11 AM-ish because we needed to check out of our hotel. Our start time wasn’t until the last wave, 2 PM, so we still had plenty of time to wait. Erin and I ran a few last-minute errands to pick up some needed van items, but most of the time we just sat around waiting for 2 pm. We did decorate our van during this time and it came out awesome!

FINALLY, 2 PM rolled around and our team was able to start. I was #4 in the line-up of six runners, so I still had a few hours until my first leg.

3:34 PM – LEG #1 (10.2ish miles, 1119 ft gain) – I was incredibly nervous for my first leg. It was my hardest by far, and I was nervous about how I would feel climbing up the mountain. When Justin handed off the bracelet to me, I flew out of the transition area way too fast. I wanted to go around 8:30 min/mile pace, but whenever I looked down at my watch during the first two miles I was between 7:20-7:45 min/mile pace. I tried to keep myself under control but my adrenaline was still pumping. We had to run on the “shoulder” of this big road, but the shoulder was so small (and the rumble strips took up most of it) it was incredibly unnerving to run, especially when huge 18-wheelers flew down the mountain past me.

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I have to say running along this shoulder was probably my least favorite part of the race because of how dangerous it felt. I had one dog come after me, and after I wasted my energy screaming at it as I trucked up the mountain, it decided to stay on its lawn and not keep coming after me.

Around five miles (still climbing) I decided to try and fuel, but realized my stomach still felt way too uneasy to eat my Gu. Luckily, I brought cliff blocks as well and I forced myself to eat two of those. I was also sipping Tailwind (MY SAVIOR) so I felt pretty confident I’d be able to get through the rest of the leg without bonking.

I walked three times trying to make it to the top of the mountain, but it was planned and I felt very much in control. When I finally reached the top and saw the downhill road before me, it was such a glorious feeling even though I still had 4 miles to go. As I ran down I felt like I was flying and everything was effortless. I forgot about my stomach, and all I felt was happiness. Despite the road being treacherous, it was an absolutely gorgeous run along the river and it made me feel so grateful to be in Tennessee with my friends.

When I finished, they handed me a medal for running the “hardest” leg of the race. We hopped in the van shortly after I finished, so we could beat our runner to the next transition and I was feeling pretty good. I chugged a gatorade as I sat in the van, and slowly I felt my stomach pain returning. I tried to eat a picky bar but I ended up only nibbling at the corners because I suddenly felt so sick.

I don’t know what set off the stomach pain, but as soon as I discovered I couldn’t eat, I knew I was in trouble. I started sipping my Tailwind mixture as much as I could – liquid calories are better than no calories. I laid down in the back of the van while my teammates kept forging ahead, and before I knew it, my turn was coming up again. So I filled my water bottle with my tailwind, got all my reflective gear together and tried to mentally prep for my second leg.

7:36 PM – LEG #2 (6.8ish miles)

When I stood outside the van waiting for my next leg, I didn’t feel as bad as when I was just laying in the stuffy van. The fresh air was really nice and there was a little bit of a chill in the air, so I put my arm warmers on because I was shivering a lot. I tried not to psych myself out about my stomach as I waited for Justin to come into transition and I tried to stay positive.

As I started out, I didn’t feel too bad. Again, I was dealing with an annoyingly-small shoulder and rumble strips, but because the road wasn’t as busy I could run a little bit into the road without fearing for my life. I told my team to meet me about 2ish miles up the road in case I was feeling incredibly horrible and around 2 miles I could see our van parked on the side of the road at a pull-off. I ripped my arm sleeves off as I came to them and asked Dave again to stop a mile or so up the road because I wasn’t feeling great.

The course was rolling – very manageable after my first leg. It wasn’t long before I saw the van up ahead again and Dave and Erin crossed the street to make sure I was okay. When Dave said, “see you at the finish” I had a panic moment. Suddenly, I didn’t feel like I was going to be able to make it to the transition, even though I only had about 3.5 miles to go. Because it was “nighttime hours” and we are allowed to have pacers in the night, I asked Dave to jump in and run with me to the transition. I kept running as he bolted back to the van to get ready and I thought the van was just going to leapfrog me and drop Dave off in front of me. I had NO IDEA he actually just grabbed reflective gear and started chasing after me – not until I heard him yell behind me. I stopped and waited and we continued on together.

Talking with Dave through the next few miles was helpful for my mind. I was feeling stressed because of how competitive my teammates were with the other ultra teams, and I felt like I was going to ruin everything by not feeling well. Running with Dave reminded me this was supposed to be fun, and I felt a little better by the time I finished. I tried making myself a peanut butter gluten free sandwich after my second leg, but I only managed to eat half of it before feeling sick again. So I continued downing my tail wind and tried to lay down anytime the van was moving, and get up at each transition for fresh air and to stretch my legs.

10:59 PM – LEG #3 (6.1 miles)

Because I was still having problems eating, I was very concerned with this leg in the middle of the night. I hadn’t slept, and I was nervous about the 6 miles all by myself. There weren’t many other runners around, and Dave decided to run with me for the first 3 miles. I’m happy he was there because we were in the middle of no where and I didn’t see one other runner on the road. At this point, my stomach felt like one gigantic knot and I know it’s because of how empty it was with the lack of food and plenty of miles. Other than the stomach pain, my legs felt fine though, so I kept plodding along at my target pace.

Around 3 miles, Dave peeled off and hopped back in our van and I continued on alone. The last 3 miles weren’t bad at all, they were actually very beautiful. I could finally see some other runners ahead of me and we were running through farmland, and a big beautiful sky of stars stretched out above us. This was one of my favorite parts of Ragnar.

When I finished, I felt relieved because I only had a 2.5 mile leg next and I was halfway done. I hung out with Erin until she was off on her leg and then I tried to sleep. Joke’s on me because I couldn’t fall asleep once, but laying down and closing my eyes was nice at least. I managed to eat a Huma Gu during this time as well and a few more cliff blocks.

3:00 AM – LEG #4 (3.8 Miles)

Ha, yes – I know I said above my next leg was only going to be 2.5 miles. THAT’S WHAT I THOUGHT, but I was wrong. Turns out, we looked at the legs wrong, and my 2.5 mile leg wasn’t until Leg 6, and I had 3.8 miles as my Leg #4, and then close to 7 miles for my Leg #5. Internally, I was having a breakdown, but I decided to pull myself together because 4 miles would feel like nothing after my longer legs. I pushed the 7 mile leg out of my mind.

As I got ready for Leg #4, I actually didn’t feel so bad. I knew I had been hydrating well despite not being able to eat much, and Erin and I joked around before my start, making me feel immensely better. I managed to eat a few handfuls of potato chips as well while we waited for Justin to come through, and this made me feel a little more confident. I brought my water bottle full of Tailwind with me even for the 4 miles because of my lack of eating, and I figured if I could keep sipping the stuff throughout the event I would be okay.

The 3.8 miles went by really fast. It wasn’t a particularly beautiful leg or anything, and there were a few good hills in there, but I felt good other than the stomach tightness. I actually passed a few runners on this leg and this made me feel even more confident. The transition area popped up on me in no time, and I was incredibly happy I made it through this leg on my own and without breaking down.

I stretched for a little bit, tried to sleep again, and watched the sun start to rise over the beautiful farmland. Even without sleep I felt calm during this time.

6:39 AM – Leg #5 (6.8 miles)

Now that I had to actually think about running almost 7 miles, I had a little freak-out. I was so worried how I was going to get through the leg because I wasn’t stomaching any real food. When I got out of the van at my exchange and started to get ready, Dave could tell I was upset. Because it was still before 7:15 AM (when nighttime hours are officially over) he promised to run a little bit with me because I was feeling so sick.

I had on my new lyme don’t kill my vibe tank top, but I couldn’t help thinking my lyme was destroying me during this race. I wanted so badly to be strong, but I felt like my body had crumpled under the stress of the race. I wasn’t able to take any of my medicine in the van, and the times I thought I might be able to, I decided against it incase they upset my stomach again. I was in some sort of state.

I started this leg nice and slow and tried not to think about how far I had to go. The sun was rising and it was finally getting light out again, and as I turned a corner onto a country road, an entire field of purple clover was illuminated with new light. It was so beautiful and serene, it made me forget about my stomach for a few minutes and feel lucky to be running. Running has allowed me to see some of the most beautiful scenery.

Dave met me about 2 miles down the road and talked with me as we walk/ran some of the bigger hills. About 3/4 of the way through the leg, my entire body began to ache. My neck and shoulders tightened up so much I could barely move, and the pain caused me to walk several more times. I wasn’t sure if I was herxing from the stress on my body or my muscles were just tense from the mileage, but I got a little worried here.

I was so happy to see the exchange at the end of this leg. When I passed off the bracelet, my neck was so stiff and painful it made me completely forget about my stomach. I laid down in the van for a little bit until the pain subsided and after an hour or so, it was pretty much back to normal.

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Tennessee countryside 

11:13 AM – Leg #6 (2.3 miles)

Finally! My 2 mile leg! Once I was done with Leg #5, I knew I would get through my last exchange, no matter how my stomach was feeling. My mood substantially lifted after finishing #5, and I was even able to eat another GU, take in a few cliff shots, and some potato chips. I kept drinking my Tailwind because I knew it was my main source of energy and I am so grateful for the stuff and actually thinking to bring it!

It was a lot warmer out for this final leg and there was absolutely no shade. I was feeling a little competitive with the other ultra team as I waited for Justin to come in, and I decided I would not let them pass me in the two miles – no matter what.

I went out much faster than I did for any of my other legs, except maybe leg 1. There was a decent hill about .5 miles in and as much as I wanted to walk up it, I thought about the other team catching me and I leaned in and powered through. The downhill was fantastic, but at the bottom was a major road where a police officer was supposed to help me cross to the other side so I could run against traffic. Mr. Police Officer was NO HELP at all, and I stood around on the corner of the street for a few minutes trying to make the pass myself. As I looked from left to right, from right to left, for an opportunity to cross, I kept thinking about the other ultra team coming over the hill to catch me.

When I finally got across the road I looked back at the hill for our competition but luckily no one was in sight. It was a straight shot to my finish from here and I pushed it to the exchange trying to keep a good distance on them.

It felt so amazing to pass the bracelet off for the last time in my exchange. Part of me was in disbelief I actually made it through the 36 miles, especially because I felt so horrible after only leg #1. But I was so happy to be done and to cross my final leg off, and even though my stomach was still hurting and I couldn’t eat yet, I was in a much better mood.

THE FINISH

Erin was our final leg. It was a much-too-long 8 mile leg to the finish line, and I felt so antsy waiting for her in front of the Country Music Hall of Fame. Before the final exchange, the other men’s ultra team was telling Erin how they were only 3 minutes behind us, and we’re pretty sure they were trying to psych Erin out. But the joke’s on them because Erin could have cared less what they said to her, and they ended up being about 30 minutes behind us, not 3.

Seeing Erin turn the final corner to the finish was so exciting. We all ran across the finish line with her and finished as the first ultra team of the race, and 7th team overall. Our time is listed as 23:30:41.1 on Ragnar’s website, but I’m pretty sure you have to add an hour to all the finishing times listed on the site because of a time zone we ran through, or something like that.

OVERALL EXPERIENCE

As sick as I felt for the most part, I would absolutely do another ultra ragnar relay. I had so much fun with my team and it was incredibly motivating to work together and to stay strong for one another. My stomach is STILL a little messed up from this weekend but I’m working on feeling better, and my legs aren’t feeling too bad either.

Next time, I know I need to get much better sleep before the event and really fine-tune a nutrition plan. I think I didn’t get enough calories in before the race, and I CERTAINLY did not get enough in during the race. I know now how difficult it actually is, and I think resting up a lot more before the race will help me feel more primed.

But I’m so happy we did it (and did well), and it’s still all I can think about. Some of my teammates and I are already planning to do another next year :).

And that’s about it. I probably won’t do a training update for this week because it’s just a recovery week and honestly I’m not doing much. I want my legs to recover as much as possible for next week’s long run, so I’ve only ran yesterday and will probably only run a few more times this weekend. I plan to go for a nice long walk today to shake out my legs some more, and that’s about it. If my legs are still feeling fatigued by the end of this week, I might go ahead and get a massage early next week so I’m all ready for my 20-22 miler.