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

 

Weekly Training Update – Last Week

OK – Weekly update time!

I apologize for not getting to the update last week.  It was actually a HORRENDOUS weekend for me health-wise and I had no energy at all to update the blog.  I’ll recap some those training runs too.  It’s only fair.

I’ll start with last week because it was my first big week back off of a recovery week.  Then HOPEFULLY you’ll see another post this Sunday for this week.

This week I had SO MANY DELICIOUS vegan and vegetarian meals.  They had me feeling good and super excited for what other recipes I could try in the future.

JANUARY 9th – today was just a regular ol’ steady state run.  It was SO COLD outside and I made the decision to go outside without my balaclava and I really regretted it.  The whole time I was running I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I never warmed up.  Also dealt with some of my mysterious foot pain.
(4 miles outside – 8:08 min/mile pace)

IMG_0607.JPG(Look at this delicious spicy Korean rice cake dinner with a soft boiled egg and veggies on top!!!)

JANUARY 10th – The training schedule didn’t call for cross training today but I moved some things around because I knew I would be traveling at the end of the week.  Decided to hit up my bike trainer for the first time in forever and it was tough going, even though I wasn’t cycling hard.  MUST GET BACK IN CROSS-TRAINING SHAPE!

I followed up the cycling with a 2 mile shake out.  Much warmer today and the brevity of the run made it quite enjoyable.
(45 minutes cycling on bike trainer.  2 miles outside – 8:10 min/mile pace)

JANUARY 11th – WORKOUT DAY!!! This week’s focus is SPEED, and because I do almost every run alone, I decided to use the treadmill so I could hit the paces I wanted.  I felt like the workout went fantastic – little to zero foot pain and I felt like I was flying at some points.

15 minute warm up, then pyramid workout. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 uptempo intervals with equal rest.  I was running the tempo portions anywhere between 6:30-6:00 min/mile pace.  I felt great.
(15 minute warm up + entire tempo workout: 8.7 miles at 7:08 min/mile pace)
(1.1 mile cool down at 9:05 min/mile pace)

(I had the best meals after my workout. Lunch was an epic salad from SweetGreen with so many delicious veggies, and dinner was vegan sweet potato quesadillas – NOM!)

JANUARY 12th – oh. my. god. SO SORE TODAY.  I headed out in the AM for a shake out run (the weather was absolutely beautiful – t-shirt and shorts kinda day IN THE MIDDLE OF JAN) and I felt like my legs were bricks! I SO wanted to enjoy this run but I felt miserable the whole time, like I was dragging my lower body.
(4.1 miles at 8:16 min/mile pace)

I drove to NJ this night after work so I also felt like the extended amount of time in the car did not do me any favors.

JANUARY 13th – AM: I went and saw my physical therapist who used to take care of me for all of my injuries.  Before I moved away to DC, I had been her patient for about 10 years – she saw me through my entire high school and collegiate running career.

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I had her look at my foot (I suspected the cuboid) and even though when she did the manipulation we heard some crackling down there, she told me the reason I was getting the foot pain is because my achilles is super tight.  And because the tendon is so tight, I’m not really getting any flex in my ankle and the pain is deferring down the side of my foot.  So, while I was there she really focused on stretching me out and urged me to start stretching regularly and making it a big part of my routine.

After seeing my PT, I spent most of my day outside picking up the yard of my childhood home.  When it came time to actually get my run in, I wasn’t super excited. I was definitely tired this day.  But I headed to Thompson Park (MY FAVORITE) and hit the trails.

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not even pick-up-sticks. try, enormous pieces of tree I must drag off the yard.
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Killin’ it.
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Thompson Park in all its glory.

The run went alright. I was still incredibly sore, but I felt this was okay because I usually feel my workout soreness two days later.  I didn’t hit any real technical trails because I was feeling so lethargic, but I tried to enjoy the few easy trails I shuffled along.
(5.6 miles at 8:43 min/mile pace).

JANUARY 14th – Long run day!!! Because I was coming off a recovery week, the long run for this week actually wasn’t too “long.” I decided I would head back to Thompson in the hopes I would enjoy it more than the day before, but I was still so. sore.  Pretty much realized I went way too fast during my Wednesday tempo workout and knew I was just going to have to gut it out through this run.

I was having some real bad stomach pains in the first few miles and felt sure I was going to have to cut the run short.  But after 4.5 miles, things sorta clicked for me and I went into my “long run mode.”  I remembered running through this park as just a kid, and I visited all the trails I used to run with my teammates: wooded single-track trails, big open paths through golden fields, and root-riddled forest trails.  I thought about how far I’ve come, and how lucky I was to even be out there running.  By the time I hit 10 miles, I was exhausted, but ecstatic!
(10 miles at 8:38 min/mile pace).

JANUARY 15th – Rest Day.  And boy oh boy did I need it.  I did not have a good night on the 14th (it ended with my going to bed at 3:45 AM in the morning) and I was exhausted.  I had to go to work, so I used my morning to relax, eat a big breakfast and take some time to myself before heading to the store. I knew it’d be busy with the holiday weekend…being at work all day was basically my workout.

JANUARY 9th – JANUARY 15th WEEKLY MILEAGE: 35.5 miles.
NOTES ON THE WEEK: I’m really happy with this! It’s been so long since my mileage has been in the 30s so I was incredibly proud of myself for getting out there and working through some lyme-related pain and then just general soreness.  The only thing that would have made this week better would be if I STRENGTH TRAINED.  I know if I don’t start strength training, I’m screwed. I really need help and motivation doing this.

 

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

 

WHY IS IT ALREADY JULY?

I’ve been feeling super blah lately, so I’m very excited to be headed to Oregon next week for the Olympic Track & Field Trials.  It’s so nice for me to escape and try to forget everything going on for a little bit.  I’ll be seeing plenty of old friends from high school as we gather for this fantastic event, and some of my college friends are coming out to Oregon with us as well, so I know things are in the making for a great time.  I’m bringing my hoop, my running shoes, and my GoPro.  We’ll see what happens.

And about those test results.  My doctor called me back last week with my endoscopy biopsy results and I think I’m more confused than I was without her call.  The pathology report showed “chronic and focal acute inflammation and intestinal metaplasia.”

It’s the metaplasia bothering me.  Why are my cells changing?  How is it prevented?  Can we make it stop?  I asked all these questions but didn’t receive an answer.  Instead I felt chastised for not starting the medicine she gave me weeks ago for acid reflux (which I HARDLY ever get and why I did not start the medicine).  So she scared me into starting it and I can happily report so far, the medicine hasn’t done one. damn. thing.  And why would it?  But I’ll keep on swallowing those stupid pills until I see her in the end of July just for the sake of telling her I definitely tried, and it doesn’t work ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

My stomach has been particularly bitchy this week and the joint pain in my knees is ridiculous.  It’s making training a little difficult but I’m dealing.  I would have loved to go for a run this morning but not only is my stomach so upset I don’t dare step out onto the road, but my knees feel swollen and stiff.  I’m hoping I’ll feel better by the end of the day and I can go for a little run on the treadmill.

As for my training – I really need to start focusing on my Ragnar in August.  I racked up 17.5 miles of running last week and about 17 miles the week before so I’m well on my way of rebuilding my base.  I was around 35 miles a week before my injury and I’m definitely going to take it slow and focus on getting quality cross training in as supplement to my lack of mileage.  I’m hoping for right around 18 miles this week but I guess it all depends on if I can get out for a run today and one this weekend.

Right now, cross training for me looks like some longer rides on my bike, some shorter rides to and from work, hitting up the elliptical, and rowing on the erg.  I’ve been doing things sort of sporadically because I’ve been feeling so ill but if I have any hope for my fall racing season I really need to get things under control.  Fast.

I can’t believe it’s July 1 today and I want to take some time to focus my goals.  If I can get a solid month of training in, I’ll feel way more ready for my ragnar relay, and then it’s on to focusing on some more speed for my fall half marathon and 10 miler.  I’ve let dealing with my health issues consume me, and since it seems I’ve hit another dead end I’m just going to push those worries to the side and start truly focusing on my running again.  So, for this month I’d love for my training to start looking something like this:

(1) Crosstrain 3X a week – one hard bike workout per week.
(2) Take one fantastical FULL rest day.  Don’t do a damn thing except enjoy myself.
(3) Run 4X a week.  (I’m not going to set any workout goals yet.  Don’t feel like destroying myself)
(4) Strengthen 2-3X a week.  I SO NEED TO DO THIS.  Core strength is so important for runners and I can’t remember the last time I even did a plank or a sit-up.  Strengthening will be important to keeping myself healthy.

I think this is an excellent recipe for success for me, but if not, I’m always willing to adjust.

Other than all of that…not much else going on.  After I finished one particularly difficult chapter I haven’t touched my writing again.  Frankly, I’m starting to piss myself off.  I’m going to get to it this weekend (I MUST) because I have nothing better to do.  I’ll just be working and writing.  That’s the dream.

Maybe I can pull together a more creative-writing-ish post soon.  I’m sure Oregon will be inspiring enough for me :).

 

Healing.

There’s no denying it’s been a hard month. Between the stress fracture and other health challenges, I’ve been left with a stream of nonstop thoughts constantly swirling in my mind. Over the past few months I’ve been on the endless search for answers and only recently realized I may not get those answers. And in order to truly heal, I need to accept this uncertainty.

On Monday I went back to my orthopedic and was freed from my walking boot. It was a glorious feeling being told my stress fracture is healed and I can get back to running again. But I was also gripped by fear. What if it hurt on my first run back? What if the ache creeps back deep into my bone and ruins the rest of my season? And my biggest worry: what if I can’t tell the difference between real pain and phantom pain caused by my anxiety and laser-focus on my tibia?

When I stepped on the treadmill earlier this week in my Hoka Bondis (MAX cushioning shoe right there) I felt like a toddler learning to walk for the first time. My heart raced and my legs trembled as I started the belt and felt the smooth rubber slide beneath my feet. My walk quickened as I upped the pace and before I knew it I was running, one foot beneath the other in an easy cadence. My arms fell relaxed to my sides and I let my body do what it knows best – run. I felt free and happy. I felt like myself.

I didn’t feel any pain during my run and for that I am grateful. Yet sometimes when I am walking around I feel what I can only hope is phantom pain brought on by the use of my leg again. And I can’t stop thinking about it.

My body has had plenty of time to heal, yet I still feel so broken.  When my hair started falling out this time last year I assumed it was because of my stressful job. When I quit my job a few months later for many reasons other than my health, I also assumed it would start growing back, but it kept falling out faster. Everyone told me when the stress of my wedding was over in November everything would get better. But wedding planning didn’t really stress me out and after the honeymoon my hair loss only got worse and an onset of all new symptoms came to life.  I can’t tell you how many doctors I’ve seen in the past year and every time I think I’m close to an answer the carpet gets ripped from beneath me and I’m left with nothing.

So even though my orthopedic gave me clearance to run, I am afraid. I believe my fear stems deep in my belief if so many doctors can’t figure out what’s going on with my overall health, how can one be so sure my leg is healed and not affected by everything else going on? It’s an irrational fear yet I let it haunt me, limit me and control my decisions.

My legs are strong. Countless miles on the bike, elliptical and rowing machine have only done me a world of good. During a ride Monday I made my way up toward Mt. Vernon Estate and was overwhelmed by what I can only describe as a Runner’s High on the bike.   It was a beautiful day and I was surrounded by the green trees arching over the path and a sense of solitude miles from home. Even the Potomac seemed to glitter in the sunlight and for a moment I believed everything would be okay. If only these moments could last forever.

As I write this I am on a plane headed to Colorado to see my sisters. I see it as an escape, a brief chance for me to restart after a challenging month. I want to immerse myself in the things I find most important: family, friends and nature. The mountains have always held some sort of spell on me and the calmness and clarity I feel when I’m in their presence is exactly what I need right now.

I may not have the answers but I am ready to heal.  I’ve always been ashamed to talk about my health trials and tribulations and I’ve kept them secret for a very long time. For so long I’ve been on this quest to hear a diagnosis finally explaining why I’ve felt so sick for over a year.  I wanted it to validate what I feel is real.  But I know it’s real, and now I’m ready to look at things from a more holistic point of view to try to clear these issues up on my own…and I’m starting by taking better care of myself.

Don’t get me wrong – I still have outstanding doctor appointments I’m not going to blow off, but for so long I’ve delayed starting my healing (in a mental sense) because I was so fixated on having a diagnosis first. I still want to know. But I also want to forgive myself, set myself free from this constant weight pushing me down, and take those steps to finally move forward.

© Allison Donaghy 2016 All Rights Reserved