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!

 

 

 

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!

 

 

Weekly Update: February 20 -February 26

I know, I know – I really keep neglecting to get these posts up every Monday. Lately, I’ve felt so crunched for time, and I haven’t been able to do any writing. Working at the running store a lot lately, plus my 50k training has left me with little time for anything else, but I’m just going with it.  It kills me, because one of my goals this year was to write more and I’ve been neglecting it horribly, but I can only do so much. Hopefully I can get things back on track here soon.

BUT – in the world of training, things have been going pretty well! February 20-26 was a huge week for me!

Monday, February 20: Today was a rest day, thankfully! I was crunched for time writing an article for my alma mater, but when I submitted it they never acknowledged soooo, who knows if it will actually run.  I also had a doctor appointment in the morning and it went pretty well.  I’ve been feeling pretty good lately with our current treatment plan so we’re going to keep at it, and hopefully in a few months be able to wean off some of the herbal medicines.

The rest of my day was spent running around like a crazy person at work during our President’s Day Sale. So even though I didn’t have to run today, I still feel like I got in a workout.

Rest Day.

Tuesday, February 21: Today I did a tempo workout! I decided to run along the Mt. Vernon Trail because I could be mostly uninterrupted by traffic lights and the such. I started out feeling really sluggish, and I started doubting I could actually do the workout.  When it came to the uptempo portion, I focused on one mile at a time, and before you know it, it was over.

Running into Old Town was not my favorite because the sidewalks did get a little congested, but all in all, it was a good workout. I cooled down for four miles, rounding the day out at 9 miles total.

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Whoop calculates strain on a scale of 1-21. Apparently, I worked harder in my tempo workout than I thought. 

9 mile tempo workout on Mt. Vernon trail – 2 mile warm-up, 3 miles uptempo (7:26, 7:18, 7:00), 4 mile cool down.  Total time: 1 hour, 10 minutes (7:48 min/mile average)

Wednesday, February 22: I woke up and my bad knee was super sore. I stretched for a little bit and put some anti-inflammatory cream on before I even thought about getting outside for a run.  I wanted to go five miles, but once I got outside I only ended up going 4 miles, with the thought I could go 2 more in the evening with Dave.

Other than the knee pain, the run was really nice. It felt easy but I was still moving at a decent pace so I’m happy with it.

The two more miles in the evening never happened and I wore a compression sleeve around my knee for the rest of the day to try and help with the swelling I felt.

4 road miles, steady – 7:42 min/mile pace

Thursday, February 23: I woke up early this morning to get a little run in before work and I couldn’t believe the weather. I wore a long sleeve and shorts, but I should have just been wearing a short sleeve because it was so warm. I ended up taking off the long sleeve half way through and I couldn’t believe this is February.

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I don’t really like the warmer weather because it’s unnatural, and makes me feel guilty our planet is such a mess.  But, something about the weather made everyone so nice today, I couldn’t help but smile my entire run.

Also – I SAW A BEAVER. I don’t know why I am so excited about this but I am, and I only wish I had my camera with me this morning so I could further share my excitement.

Anyways…I felt restless all day at work and couldn’t wait to leave so I could get back outside. I decided to go for another run and as soon as I got home I changed and headed back out the door.

The run was good for the most part and I went about 7 miles. My knee is still hurting a bit so I tried to run slow and not push it, but there were so many other runners out, I got a little competitive.  To cool down, I walked the remaining mile home and other than suddenly getting blasted with severe cramps, I’m so happy I got back outside.

AM Run – 3 road miles, 7:53 min/mile pace
PM Run – 7 road miles, 7:48 min/mile pace.  1 mile cool down walk

Friday, February 24: The day I was waiting for ALL WEEK! Today, I went hiking with my friend Megan in Shenandoah National Park.  We drove out early in the morning to Old Rag, a 9 mile hike with really fun rock scrambles.

The hike was beautiful. Again, the weather is creepily warm, so we hiked the entire time in shorts and tanks, and I finally got to test out my Hoka One One hiking boots (they were awesome).  Last time I did this hike with Dave, I got some NASTY heel blisters in some trail running shoes I used, but I was all good this time!

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We crushed the hike. All in all, it took us about 3 1/2 hours to hike the 9.2 miles, rock scrambles and all.  Some of the scrambles are pretty technical (=fun) and we really needed to lift ourselves up onto the boulders and use any rock surface as leverage with our body weight.  It wasn’t until the final mile did I really start to feel how tired and sore I was, and by the time we made it back to DC, we both were exhausted.

For the rest of the day I just hung out on the couch with my legs up.  It wasn’t until around 8:00 pm did I try to get my run in, and it was a STRUGGLE FEST. My knee was definitely feeling it.  I ran on the treadmill so I could call it quits at any moment if needed, but I ended up going 3 miles. I do think the run helped shake out some of the lactic acid, but I can’t believe what a struggle it was to even get down to the gym.

Hiking Old Rag: 9.2 miles, 3:29:32
3 mile treadmill run – 8:10 min/mile pace

Saturday, February 25: I woke up SORE.  More sore than I imagined I would be, and I started worrying immediately about being able to get my long run in.  After breakfast and stretching for a bit I drove out to Great Falls Park with Dave to try and get 15 miles in before the storms were supposed to roll through the area.

With the first step I took, I knew I was in trouble. My calves were so tight, my shins aches, and my glutes felt FRIED. I kept running slow with Dave anyways, and after a few miles I warmed up, but it didn’t help much. Dave stopped after 3 miles with me and at that point I was already defeated. I ran 2 more miles out on the trail before giving in to my sore legs.

All in all, I hit 10 miles and I didn’t let myself get down over not completing my long run. I actually felt really proud of myself for getting out there and not giving up on the trail and all the hills.

The rest of the day included napping, eating, stretching and laying around. Solid recovery if you ask me.

10.1 miles at Great Falls Park: 9:14 min/mile pace

Sunday, February 26: I woke up nice and early again to make a second attempt at my long run. I decided to head to the canal because it would still be a soft surface, but nice and flat for my still sore legs.

Honestly – I didn’t feel any better getting out there on the canal. My legs were still incredibly sore from the hike, and I was SO BORED on the flat path. I thought about giving up after 3 miles when I stopped to use a bathroom, but I talked myself into trying to run a few more miles out before turning around. I’m glad I did.

As I got farther down the canal, I actually felt a little better. The weather today was the only “cold” day of the week, and it was so refreshing. It’s been awhile since I ran on the canal and I saw so many familiar faces! Other runners I work with, college teams out for long runs, and some old friends.  By the time I finished the run (even though I was spent) I felt really happy I came out to the canal. It ended up being a refreshing change of pace.

ANDDDD – as much as it hurt toward the end, I got my 15 miles in! I walked for a little bit after the run to try and cool down, but then I had to rush off to work for another crazy-busy nonstop day.

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15 miles on c&o canal: 8:06 min/mile pace

 

WEEKLY TOTAL: 51.2 MILES!!!!

NOTES ON THE WEEK: I am so happy I finally topped 50 miles. I can’t remember the last time I’ve been able to do this, and I felt incredibly accomplished. It’s been a long time and I’m excited for the endurance I’m finally building.

One thing I am NOT so excited about is my lack of cross training and strengthening. To be fair, my training plan doesn’t really call for much cross training, but I have always felt better when I incorporate cycling into my running plans and I haven’t really been doing that. I don’t want to overload myself either, but I think if I could just get on the bike 1-2 times a week it would be incredibly helpful.

Not doing my strengthening workouts is totally on me. I get so tired by the end of the day and I just run out of time with everything else I am trying to do. I really hope I can start doing these workouts consistently because I’m going to need them more than ever for my ultras.

SOMEONE MAKE ME DO MY STRENGTHENING.

Weekly Update: February 13 – February 19

Little late with the weekly update, I know! I’ve been super busy these past few days working at the running store because of the holiday weekend, and holy hell did it take ALL my energy. But here we are.  Definitely been struggling with some knee pain lately and it’s most likely the increased mileage and lack of strengthening. I really, really need to get on top of this.

Monday, February 13: Rest day. My knee was feeling a little creaky from the half marathon the day before, and my body was EXHAUSTED from the harrowing flight the night before. I let myself sleep in a little today and tried not to do anything stressful.  Wasn’t feeling sore at all from the half marathon, but I wasn’t expecting to either with the pace we ran it at.

My Whoop heart rate monitor arrived today! I am super excited about this piece of equipment and I’m really hoping it’s going to help me keep on track with my training, rest days, etc. When I get excited, I have a tendency to over do it. This monitor allows me to track my sleep, workouts and recovery based off HRV and my heart rate.  Excited!!!

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My new Whoop HRV monitor!

Rest Day

Tuesday, February 14: I had a meeting in Clarendon this morning so I decided to get my run in before I headed back home. After the meeting I ran from the Clarendon store to the Custis trail and did 5 easy miles. I always forget how hilly this trail is, but the hills were a nice little wake up call to my legs. It was a beautiful morning – it actually started flurrying once I finished up the run.

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gray morning pre snow flurries on the Custis Trail

I totally forgot it was Valentines Day, so I’m happy I got my run in before work, because Dave surprised me with a vegan dinner creation when I got home from closing up the store. It was delicious!

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vegan sweet potato fajitas for dinner!

5.1 miles outside – 8:08 min/mile pace

Wednesday, February 15: Treadmill workout today! I wanted to get a little tempo work in so I headed to the gym. After a 15 minute warm up I wasn’t really feeling the greatest but decided to try the workout anyways. I ended up doing 6X5 minute repeats uptempo and my pace was anywhere in between 6:25-6:00 min/mile pace.  So not bad!

I cooled down outside on the Mt. Vernon trail for 15 minutes.

15 minute w.u., 6X5 min uptempo, 1 min recovery – 7.4 miles, 6:52 min/mile pace.
15 minute c.d – 1.8 miles, 8:29 min/mile pace
(9.2 miles for the day)

Thursday, February 16: NOT feeling good today. Even though my knee didn’t hurt at all yesterday, it was killing me when I woke up this morning. I struggle with the pain on and off all the time because of the arthritis, but I could definitely feel some swelling in there. I put on some anti-inflammatory cream and a compression sleeve for the whole day before I decided to try and run after work at 9:00 pm.

I ran on the treadmill and there was a decent amount of pain. Decided to cut the run short and hit up the treadmill for a little bit instead to take some impact off the joint.  Once I finished up the treadmill/elliptical, I headed back up to my apartment to do some strengthening.  I didn’t do anything strenuous since I was already sore – some abs, leg lifts and push ups.

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I iced and stretched A LOT afterward.

3 treadmill miles – 8:16 min/mile pace
15 minutes elliptical
20-30 minutes strengthening

Friday, February 17: I woke up feeling a little apprehensive about trying to go for a longer run because of the knee pain. Decided to go for it anyways and head to Great Falls Park, reasoning if I couldn’t run, at least I could hike around instead and enjoy the beautiful day.

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According to Whoop, I nailed my sleep recovery goal! 

I ended up getting a fantastic run in! I did have knee pain but as I ran, it loosened up a little. I took it nice and slow on the trails and it was such a beautiful day I ended up forgetting all about my knee. I love challenging myself on the hills back there.

After my run I walked around the park for another mile or so just enjoying the day and letting my legs/body cool down.

At the end of the day, I decided to run again with Dave when he got home from work. Since I need to be getting ready for the Ragnar in a month, I didn’t see any problem going out for 3 more slow miles with Dave to round out the day. We ran along the Mt. Vernon trail together and my legs felt absolutely fine. I wore my patella knee strap to give a little more support for my knee and didn’t really notice it after the first minute or so of running.

9 trail miles – AM – 8:59 min/mile pace
3 road miles – PM – 8:36 min/mile pace

Saturday, February 18: Long run day! I had so much fun at Great Falls the day before, I decided to head back. Since it was a holiday weekend and it was going to be like 70 degrees, I headed out early because I knew the park was going to get mobbed.

I had some knee pain as I started the run but it dissipated over the next couple of miles. I ran with my Nathan hydration vest and I seriously love having my water and nutrition right at my fingertips.

I went farther out on the Potomac Heritage trail than I’ve ever gone before and it was kinda creepy out there. I ended up playing some music via my phone’s speaker on the way back to civilization just because it was SO QUIET and I’m honestly not used to it. The music helped motivate me to make it back to Great Falls though, especially the last 3 miles or so when I was really starting to feel my knee pain come back.  The trail was a little muddy too, so I really had to slow down at a lot of points so I wouldn’t wipe out in the slick mud.

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All in all, I made it 14 miles on the trail and I was so happy when I finished. And when I was leaving the park – totally right about it getting mobbed. The entire parking lot was full, and there was a line of cars all along the road leading into the park as cars waited to get in. Happy with my decision to get my butt in gear a little earlier today.

I iced and stretched and wore my compression sleeve for the rest of the day and actually, my knee didn’t feel too bad!

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post long run noms = deliciousness

14 trail miles – 9:02 min/mile

Sunday, February 19: Today called for 6 miles but I knew I was going to cut it short the moment I woke up. I could feel some stiffness in my knee so I really didn’t want to push it too much, and instead went out for a short run with Dave before work. We ran along the Mt. Vernon trail nice and slow and even though my knee didn’t feel too bad, I stopped after 2.6 miles.

I had the intentions of getting on the bike trainer in the evening after work but it was SO CRAZY at work with the sale, all I could do was collapse on my couch when I got home. No strengthening, no cross training, no nothing.  You win some, you lose some.

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me and my icing buddy 🙂

2.6 road miles – 8:32 min/mile

 

WEEKLY MILEAGE TOTAL: 45.9 miles.  Ahhhhh the .9 kills me (why couldn’t I of ran .1 more miles?!) but that’s okay.  I’m not going to lie, I wanted a little bit more mileage for this week, but given the knee pain – I’ll take it.

NOTES ON THE WEEK: I keep disappointing myself with my lack of strengthening and cross training but I’m really trying not to beat myself up too much about it. I’m on my feet all day, working two jobs AND trying to train for an ultra marathon so I only have so much time. I know the strengthening will help me so I really need to get to it though.

gahhhhhhhhh.

Hoping the knee starts to feel better soon!

 

Weekly Training Update: January 23-29

This past week was the highest mileage week I’ve had in YEARS.  And it’s only the beginning!  Also – I should have a “real” blog post coming your way soon, I’ve just had a lot on my plate. I’m getting my fundraiser page ready for my 57 mile charity run in November and I’m trying to figure out how I’d like to organize everything, so it is taking up a bit of my time.

Monday, January 23: I woke up this morning and it was POURING and windy.  Stared out the window for a few minutes and decided NOPE.  I made it my rest day :).
(Rest Day)

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I did make some delicious veggie chili this day though!

Tuesday, January 24: I intended on heading out the door for a 5 mile run, but only made it 4.2 miles.  I ran on the Mt. Vernon Trail but was really not feeling it.  I felt groggy, my legs felt heavy and I had a headache.  I had to talk myself through each step.

But the best part of today was…I DID STRENGTHENING.  I focused on my glutes – doing lots of leg lifts and squats, but I also did some abs too! Strengthening work out lasted all of 22 minutes.
(4.2 road miles, 7:59 min/mile pace)

Wednesday, January 25: WORKOUT DAYYYYYY! I seriously love tempo workouts.  I do wish I didn’t always have to do them on the treadmill, but I KNOW if I try and run one alone outside, I won’t be able to hit my pace.  So I think going too fast on the treadmill is better than nothing.

My glutes were SO SORE this morning, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t going to affect my workout. I did a lot of stretching this morning to help alleviate some of the tightness.

I warmed up for 18 minutes at about 8 min/mile pace and then did 5X5 minute repeats uptempo, with 1 min rest in between.  My 5 minute repeats were anywhere between 6:40-5:50 min/mile pace.  I progressively got faster with each repeat, which I always enjoy.

After the workout I hopped outside to cool down for 20 minutes.  It was a beautiful day, sun shining and in the upper 50s…seriously, I feel like winter has been completely absent this year.

Total mileage for the day was 9.5 miles!

(18 minute warm-up, 5X5 min fast, 1 minute recovery: 7 miles, 6:54 min/mile average)
(20 minute road cool down: 2.5 miles, 7:58 min/mile pace)

Thursday, January 26: Glutes still tight today, ha! I think the tightness really shows how badly I need to start doing strengthening on a more regular basis.

I woke up with the intention of getting my run in before work, but I just couldn’t get myself out the door. I was feeling very tired and achy, so I did some writing instead and tried to stretch a little bit.

My boss let me step off the floor a little early, with the caveat I had to go out and do my run if I was going to leave.  So I got dressed at the running store and headed out for my run (I knew if I went home I would just lay on the couch and do nothing). It was very windy, and no matter which direction I turned, I felt like there always was a headwind.

I also got some really weird pains shooting down my right leg. I was wearing compression socks, trying to help with blood flow in my legs after yesterday’s workout, but I feel like they may have been causing the pain? I honestly have no idea.  My right knee felt incredibly weak (this is the knee I have arthritis in and constant joint pain) and every once and a while I would take a step and it felt like fire was shooting down my lower leg from my knee.  Dislike. But I took it easy and finished the run.

I only needed 3-5 miles, but somehow got myself turned around in Old Town and ended up going 5.8 miles.  I stretched A LOT and iced after the run.

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I tried these after my run and they were actually pretty good!
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YASSSSSSS

Later in the night, I also did strengthening again!!! Stayed away from doing any leg work and really just focused on abs and some arm stuff.  After strengthening I stretched and rolled my legs out for a good 25 minutes.

(5.8 road miles, 8:10 min/mile pace)

Friday, January 27: So excited for this day! All week I planned on going to Fountainhead Regional Park to hit up the trails again for the first time in awhile.  My good friend joined me so I wouldn’t have to suffer alone, and I’m so happy I had her there with me on the trails.

I was a little nervous about my knee because of the pain from the day before, but I put on some supportive tights and a patella strap and decided to just go for it.

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This was my first time testing out my hoka speedgoats on an actual technical trail, and I thought they faired pretty well.  I, however, really need to get out on the trails more often. I felt like I was turning my ankles constantly, and I tripped twice (the second time was about .1 miles from finishing…so frustrating!).  But even with the turning of ankles and falling, I had an amazing run.  The hills definitely challenged me, but it was so nice to be out in nature again.

(8 trail miles, 9:51 min/mile pace)

 

Saturday, January 28: Long run day! I decided to head to Great Falls park because most of my 50k April race will be on some of the trails in this area.  I tested out my new Nathan Vaporairess Race Vest today and it was the first time I’ve ever run with a water pack before.  IT WAS AWESOME.  I definitely need to get used to drinking on the run and having the pack on me, but it didn’t bother me once throughout my entire run.  And that’s saying something.

I really wanted to go slow today and just focus on having an enjoyable run.  My ankles were super sore from turning them so many times at Fountainhead, but the rest of my legs felt surprisingly good.

I think today was the first run where I let myself walk when I needed to (up some of the steeper hills) and stop to enjoy the beautiful park and scenery.  I know I need to get used to power walking in long trail ultra races and I feel like today was the first time I told myself it was okay to take breaks.  And I really ended up enjoying my run, even though it was long and challenging, and I was absolutely exhausted at the end.

(12.6 trail miles, 9:07 min/mile pace)

Sunday, January 29: I meant to do some strengthening and some cross training today but it never happened.  I slept A LOT last night but I woke up still feeling exhausted, which is never a good sign for me.  I ended up taking the day as another rest day, but I was definitely hustling at work a bit, so my legs got to shake out some.  I do wish I could have done that strengthening…

JANUARY 23 – JANUARY 29 WEEKLY MILEAGE: 40.3 MILES!

NOTES ON THE WEEK: I am so happy with this training week. I can’t believe I finally hit 40 miles and felt pretty good doing it.  I did notice I’m feeling a lot of fatigue after my longer runs (I can’t seem to do anything but lay on the couch afterwards) so as the mileage ramps up in a few weeks, I’m going to pay really close attention to what my body is telling me.  I don’t think the fatigue is from being out of shape, it could be the lyme and overexerting myself, but I’m going to monitor it.

 

Mountains and Ironmans

It is dark but I feel the mountains around me.  The highway is still quiet at this early morning hour and the headlights illuminate glimpses of rock faces on the road edge.  As the sky turns from black to gray more comes to life around me.  A smile creeps across my face and I can’t control it.  Whenever I feel lost the mountains ground me.  Full of wisdom and older than I can imagine, I feel safe in their presence.  They’ve seen it all.

The sun yawns and stretches its rays up above the mountains and faint light wakes the trees.  I can see the fog nestled in the valleys like a cold blanket covering slumbering fields.  As we speed down Interstate 81 toward Chattanooga, Tennessee, I try to take everything in because my camera can’t do the scenery any justice.  In the rearview mirror I can see the sky on fire with stripes of orange, red, yellow and pink as the sun rises higher.  The world is finally awake.

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Dave and I are headed to Chattanooga to see Erin race her first Ironman.  As we roll up to the hotel a few hours later the atmosphere is laced with anticipation.  More and more athletes arrive as Dave and I unload the car and wait for Erin, and I watch triathletes roll their expensive bikes into the lobby.  I feel like I am caught up in another world, a world of organized chaos full of nervous energy shaking and rattling my psyche.  The calmness of the mountains is gone, evaporated into the sky like the morning fog I spied earlier floating across the landscape.

Race day calls for record high heat, yet I don’t feel nervous for Erin.  Not only has she been living in Texas all summer long, but when I hug her in the hotel lobby I sense a feeling of readiness.  She is an island of serenity in the sea of madness only an Ironman event can create.  She is my mountains – all knowing and calm.

On Saturday morning, the morning before the race, we head out for an easy bike ride and I follow cautiously behind Erin and her friend.  I’m riding her other triathlon bike and it’s so light I feel as if I might blow away in the next wind gust.  But as we ride out of downtown and into the countryside I can feel my confidence building.  I feel weightless and free speeding down the hills and I feed on the energy radiating from the green mountains around us.  It’s quiet enough I can hear the birds chirping in the trees and it reminds me of being a kid again in Robbinsville, NJ,  when Erin and I would wake early on muggy summer mornings and speed down the hills in our neighborhood on our matching bikes.

Race morning arrives before I know it and I spring out of bed at 3:50 AM like it’s actually a normal waking hour.  Everything is done in the dark: body marking, final checks of the bike, riding the bus to the swim start – and again I feel as if I am immersed in another world.  I’ve run hundreds of road races, a few triathlons, marathons, and championship races but nothing compares to the start of an Ironman.  I watch all the triathletes sitting around me waiting for the swim start and wonder what’s going on in their heads.  How does one prepare for a 2.4 mile swim, 116 mile bike ride (bike course was long in Chatt – it’s usually 112 miles) and then 26.2 miles afterwards?  They have to believe.  And as cheesy as it sounds, I knew before Erin even started she would finish, because she believed so deeply in herself.

Other than the finish, my favorite part of spectating Erin’s Ironman was the swim.  After they jumped into the river I ran down the river walk to get a good view of the water.  Separating myself from other spectators, I found myself surrounded in the beauty of a race unlike any other.  Hundreds of swimmers headed downstream in a wide line, and the sound of their arms hitting the water reminded me of the sound of delicate wings fluttering endlessly, softly dipping in and out of the water.  For a moment, I watched silently as the swimmers migrated downstream together under a watercolor sky.  Together they had one goal: to be an Ironman.  It sent chills down my spine.

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About 12 hours later I am standing at the finish line.  I’ve spent all day tracking the merciless sun across the sky and finally we are immersed in  a darkness bringing much welcomed coolness.  Erin will be finishing any minute and the announcer’s voice booms at the finish line as other athletes cross and throw their arms up in triumph.  Music blares and as each athlete passes we slap the cardboard signs tied to the barriers, screaming and creating a thunderous applause.

When Erin approaches I feel my heart skip a beat only to then beat what feels like a million times per minute.  As I scream, “you are an Ironman” a smile splits across her tired face and her eyes sparkle with happiness.  I feel tears well up in my own and my heart swells.  To stand at the finish line of an Ironman is to experience more emotion than I can usually muster up in a month.  Watching her run into the finish line spotlights I know I’ll remember this moment for the rest of my life.

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After the race we find Erin and walk away from the intense energy at the finish line.  Sitting on a bench in pseudo darkness – the glare of the finish line behind us, the announcer’s voice thundering through the air – my sisters, mom, husband, friends and I crack open a beer.  We drink slowly by the riverside as Erin tells us about the ups and downs of her race and I feel at peace even though we are surrounded by madness.

Every athlete has their own story.  Their own triumphs and failures.  The finish line means something different to each and everyone of them, and I feel blessed to have been able to experience Ironman Chattanooga as a spectator and see so many dreams fulfilled.  Erin has a story of resilience and determination, a story of never giving up no matter the hardship.

Watching Erin race made me think about my own story and where I’m headed.  As I sipped my beer riverside, I thought about how unclear everything seems.

I have dreams and aspirations I believe I can fulfill if only I could get my health settled.  My shin pain has come back full force and I’ve put a halt on all training to try and get the pain to go away.  I want to believe I can do amazing things but it’s hard to believe when I feel so broken.  I’ve spent a boatload of money on extensive lyme disease testing and I’m nervous to get the results in a few weeks.  I hope my injuries will resolve themselves because I refuse to let my story end on some shitty 5k I gave up halfway through.  Right now, I feel like I am in limbo, and I don’t know which way to go.

As I drove back to DC from Chattanooga, still high from Erin’s triumphant finish, I realized she has found her calling.  I’ve always known we are endurance athletes and after so many ups and downs in the running world I feel such a happiness knowing Erin has found what she truly loves to do.  But I don’t know what I’m meant to do yet.  But as I passed through the mountains one last time, their serenity quelled my feelings of doubt.  Because when I’m in nature, I know what I want.

And those mountains are calling, and somehow, I will go.

 

© Allison Donaghy 2016 All Rights Reserved

 

 

Finding myself the hard way

I’ll be brutally honest here: I SUCKED in my race today.  There’s no way around it or better way to say it – I tanked a 5k I should have never signed up for in the first place.

I could give you a million excuses as to what went wrong: my shin felt like it was going to explode, I’ve been extra fatigued/sick lately, I haven’t raced since April, I went out too fast…but I’m not one for putting weight in my excuses.  I was exactly on pace for my first two miles (6:07 and 6:15 downhill) but once I hit the flatlands I let the dull ache in my shin rattle my mind.  The “what-ifs” flooded in, the “I can’ts” screamed louder than I expected. I’ve ran multiple 5ks in my past few weeks of training at 19:30 pace and done half mile repeats at 6 min/mile pace, so I know my pace wasn’t the problem.  My head just wasn’t in it.  It’s just fucking three miles, I tried telling myself but it didn’t matter.  As soon as the pain came creeping in I used it as my scapegoat.

I know how to run through pain.  If there’s one thing I’m good at it’s staying mentally strong when the rest of my body is whining and crying for reprieve. I’ve been doing it for 16 years and I’ll continue to do it until I cannot any longer.  There’s not a day my right knee doesn’t ache and remind me of the early arthritis there, the thin white scar from surgery always smirking up at me challengingly and knowingly.

What happened today had nothing to do with being out of shape – my heart was never in it.

It was a beautiful morning for racing.  Despite the humidity it was in the 60s and the gray sky stayed overcast – a perfect autumn morning.  I warmed up and felt good despite the shin pain.  I kept to myself as I always do and pushed away any doubts.  It was my first time racing in my uniform and it stressed me out.  The need to prove myself filled me entirely.  I took all the fun out of racing because of the uniform I had on my body, and I knew it in the moment.  I knew right then, ten minutes before the gun, my heart wasn’t in the race and I didn’t want to be there.

Over the years I’ve learned I’m not a short race kind of person, but I guess I haven’t learned my lesson yet.  I have no speed and I lack those fast-twitch muscles essential for kicking.  I do strides, tempo workouts, intervals, but ALAS – nothing.  I build strength over distance and I’m most successful when the race is  AT LEAST a 10k (and even that’s still too short).  I trust myself  with long distance running.  When I was training for my first marathon it didn’t matter I was only running four times a week and less than 30 miles a week.  I did hard bike workouts and always hit my long run.  I wasn’t surprised when I qualified for Boston Marathon off my first marathon attempt, and it’s because it didn’t matter I was low mileage – it’s because I believed with my heart I could do it, so I did.  It was that simple.  I never doubted myself finishing for one moment.

But today the first mile felt like an eternity.  I thought about dropping out.  As my feet slapped the pavement I wondered what in the hell I was doing in a 5k with a bunch of fast racers who actually trained for this?  I felt embarrassed and ashamed of myself in that last mile, but as I stopped to walk 2.5 miles in (absolutely loathing myself) I also learned what I really want these days.

My competitive edge is gone.  It’s been gone for awhile now, but I certainly realized it out on the course today.  I don’t care when someone passes me – it doesn’t motivate me, it doesn’t propel me to go faster.  What I care most about these days is having fun and enjoying my running, especially when I don’t know how many years I have left (I know I will have a knee replacement in my future – just hopefully not any time soon).  I care about getting healthy again.  I care about trying to enjoy every little moment in life.  Racing in uniform, I put too much pressure on myself to succeed because I was afraid of letting others down.  But after this morning it’s clear to me I need to stop caring about what I think everyone else is thinking, because all I do is forget myself in the process.

Lately, the woods have been calling.  I fantasize about running beautiful trails in the mountains, losing myself on dirt paths through the forest and climbing to new heights both literally and physically.  In high school and college I didn’t just love cross country because I loved competitive running (although I did then), but I also loved letting go and becoming one with nature, losing myself in the surrounding trees.  With each foot fall I’d pound out a little bit of my anger and fear, and I was never afraid to chase my dreams through the hills, fields and foliage.  Nature makes me feel strong.  Nature fills the emptiness inside of me even running can’t fill.  When I combine the two I feel invincible.

I won’t say I completely regret today’s race (90% regret) because without failure, I can’t learn more about myself.  This morning I put on a bracelet my father gave me when I broke 20:00 minutes in a 5k for the first time back when I was in middle school.  I hoped it could bring some sort of luck, spirit and competitive edge back to me.  I watched it jingle on my wrist during the race but it didn’t inspire me to go faster.  Back then, breaking 20 was exactly what I wanted.  And as much as I wanted it this morning I didn’t have the heart to actually go after it.

Big changes are coming my way.  Maybe I’ll find out what’s going on with my health (I’m in the middle of being tested more extensively for Lyme disease and other tick borne diseases after I found some abnormal flags on blood work from last year) and maybe I won’t but I’m going to make changes now.  I’m following my heart and going to be looking into trail racing.  I plan on competing in an ultra Ragnar Relay next year and perhaps even a 50 miler on my own.  I’m going to start eating a more plant-based diet to try and bring the inflammation down in my body and see if it can help not only my dismal health but my running as well.

I’m always afraid to talk about my dreams and aspirations because I’m afraid of failure.  Because I don’t believe in myself.  But I’m going to believe I can do this because it’s what my heart is screaming for me to do, and has been for awhile.  I’m going to believe I can do this because if I let my fear of failing and what others think of me shape my life, than I’ll never really live.

And all it took was a shitty 5k this morning for me to realize it.

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the bracelet says “sub 20 award” 

© Allison Donaghy 2016 All Rights Reserved