Hello, It’s Me.

HI.

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

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

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

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

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

Life felt pure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Visiting the Past.

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

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

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

“How’d you sleep?” I ask.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Living with Lyme

May is Lyme disease awareness month!

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

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

HEADACHES/MIGRAINES 

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

FATIGUE

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

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

INFLAMMATION

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

DIGESTIVE ISSUES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Thank you for reading – until next time!

 

 

North Face Endurance Challenge DC 50k: RACE RECAP

FINALLY – I’ve gotten around to writing my race recap for my first ever 50k at the North Face Endurance Challenge. As many of you know, I did not have a good lead up to the race. After my last 20 miler in my building phase, I developed perineal tendonitis in my right ankle. I had to take off for the remaining three weeks leading up to the race, except for a few attempted runs sprinkled in there. I went for a lot of walks (as long as they were not painful), started physical therapy, and I also ran on an underwater treadmill a few times to keep my legs moving.

Eventually race weekend approached and I needed to make the decision whether to attempt racing or not. I saw my orthopedic doctor the day before the race and he gave me the go ahead to race, as long as the pain didn’t keep getting worse as the miles piled on. So, the day before I made the decision to go pick up my race packet and give it a try.

Here’s how it all went down!

DAY BEFORE RACE: Friday

On Thursday night, Erin surprised me by flying in to see me race! I knew my mom was coming, but I had no idea Erin would be there until she walked through the door with Dave. It was a surprise for my mom as well, and we all had a really nice dinner before heading to bed early. I did a little bit of packing for race day but I was trying not to stress too much about what I was going to need. Race day promised to be hot and humid – it was supposed to get up to 92 degrees midday. I knew my hydration and nutrition plan needed to be on point.

After my doctor’s appointment, Erin, my mom and I went to the grocery to pick up last minute snacks for race day. Afterward, Erin and I went on a short and slow shake out jog for about 3-4 miles, and I was excited to not have any pain in my peroneal at all. We stretched for a bit and then headed to packet pick-up to get my bib.

On the way home we made a quick pit stop at the running store so I could buy my mom some new running shoes for her birthday (yay!) and I could grab some extra gus, even though I already had PLENTY. Once we got home it was around noon and Erin advised I stay off my feet for the rest of the day. So we all just snacked, watched TV and finished getting my race bags ready for tomorrow.

I drank PLENTY of water all throughout the day and made sure to include extra electrolytes for the hot forecast the next day.

RACE DAY:

My alarm went off at 3:45 AM, but I was already awake. Surprisingly, I felt more excited than nervous even though I had no idea how the day was going to go. I prepared all my tailwind mixtures (filled my 70 oz bladder in my Nathan race vest) and made an extra Nalgene full in case I needed it. I stuffed some ankle braces into the back of the pack in case I needed them out on the trail, got dressed and we were off for Algonkian Park!

I took a salt pill first thing after waking up and Erin told me I should plan to take another right before start and then every 45 minutes until I finished. The first time I ever took salt pills was during our ultra Ragnar relay and they helped me A LOT, so I completely trusted Erin’s plan. She’s an Ironman after all and has raced in 100+ degree heat, so I knew I was in good hands and felt so much more comforted having her at the race.

We got to the start a little earlier than I expected, but that’s okay – earlier is always better than late. Erin and I walked around a little bit to get my ankle warmed up and the sun rising over the Potomac was incredibly beautiful. Everything felt surreal. Even though I was unsure how far I was going to get/if I was going to finish, everyone else believed in me. I hardly felt nervous – just ready to get the day started.

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pre-start!

As we neared start time, I got my vest situated on me, sprayed myself with bug spray and sunscreen and lined up. It was a 7 AM start, so the sun was still coming up and there was plenty of cloud coverage. I wore a hat anyways because I knew it was going to get sunny later and I didn’t want to forget to put one on during transition.

My start was slow. I had no idea what pace to go out at and I didn’t want to pull my peroneal from pushing it too fast. The race director let us know the path would single track early on, but I felt comfortable with the group surrounding me. My breathing felt very easy even though it was incredibly humid, and my ankle felt fine. I carried on with them for a few miles until the trail abruptly narrowed and I realized I should have gotten myself out much faster.

For a few miles I got myself stuck in this long line of runners with no ability to pass. It wasn’t until one of the first uphills when everyone started to walk was I able to speedwalk/jog past them. It was around these first hills where I could see all the runners ahead of me zig zagging up the next hill in the cover of the tall trees, and I felt this overwhelming sense of happiness. I was doing it!

Around 5-6 miles into the race I finally settled in to a pace comfortable for me. I have no idea what it actually was because the tree coverage definitely screwed with my Garmin, but it felt between 9:00-10:00 min/mile. At this point the trail was familiar to me from the many, many times I ran here before. It was pretty muddy but not unbearable and I was happy – I seriously couldn’t stop smiling.

Going out to Great Falls, the hills didn’t seem so bad. I power hiked most of them and because I had run them so many times before, I knew exactly what was coming next. When we detoured around Riverbend Park, we had to run alongside this road before hopping back into the woods. It was here, right around mile 11 that I hit a tree root hard and stumbled forward for a few violent steps before I caught myself with my hands on the ground. I didn’t fall all the way, but the jolt was hard on my bad knee/ankle. I started jogging tentatively after I brushed my hands off and was surprised there was no pain. I told myself not to think about it anymore and I carried on until I made it to Great Falls Park.

Mile 13 was the big aid station where Erin, Dave and my mom were allowed to wait with my bags and help me. From some of the slipping and sliding on the trail, my shoes were rubbing me the wrong way and I could feel blisters starting on the inside of my heels. Even though I had did all my trail runs in these shoes/socks, I decided to switch out of my shoes at the aid station and put on a brand new pair I just got the week before. They felt amazing. I decided it had to be my shoes giving me the problem and didn’t change my socks (IDIOT!). Other than the shoe change, I took a few more gus from Erin and hurried on my way. I still had PLENTY of tailwind in my Nathan even though I had been sipping it every mile and drinking with the gus/salt pills I took every 45 minutes. My quads were starting to feel a little fatigued but I knew I was going to feel it early, given I hadn’t run for 3 weeks prior.

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around mile 18!

Miles 13-19 were several loops in Great Falls. It started off with a pretty big hill and I walked most of it, taking some time to hydrate and eat a Gu. My feet felt much better and I didn’t have rubbing on my heels anymore so I thought I was all set.  Around mile 17, I felt my perineal starting to hurt a little bit so I slowed it down. There were a lot of rocks on this part of the course so I focused instead on not turning my ankle instead of going fast.

 

Mile 19 put me right back at the big aid station and I stopped to eat a clementine, drink some tailwind and take a few more gus. I decided not to change my socks because I thought the problem was gone…and I really regret this. I was feeling pretty good mentally/physically – I was hydrating well, eating well and my legs felt as good as they could for not running 3 weeks beforehand. I said good bye to my fam and told them I’d see them back in Algonkian Park. The sun was fully out at this point and I was started to feel hot, so we squeezed some ice sponges on my quads, neck and back before I headed out.

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making sure I have everything I need…wish I changed those damn socks!

Miles 19-31 were challenging. And it’s not just because of fatigue in my legs – honestly I didn’t feel NEARLY as bad as I thought I would – it’s because of the mud and blisters I developed. I think the two go hand in hand, honestly. The mud was SO BAD that I couldn’t run at all, let alone walk without almost wiping out. My blisters fully formed on the inside of my heels and it was so painful every time I took a step. I fantasized about taking my shoes off and running in my socks. But I kept my spirits up – kept smiling and told myself to just get to the next aid station.

At one point, probably around 25 miles, I felt this building sensation in my right heel and then it was FIRE. I think the blister popped. It hurt for the next 5 minutes or so but then the pain went completely away. About 20 minutes later the same happened on my right heel and even though it hurt like a bitch, it made the rest of the race so much more bearable. If it wasn’t so muddy, I think I could have made it through this part of the course 5x faster.

There were a few other runners around me and we were all so frustrated with the mud. I saw a lot of them wipe out, and then we would commiserate together with how shitty the course was left for us. It wasn’t until mile 28-29ish that we finally steered away from the flooded trail and got some better footing. But it took us out into the sun and it was BRUTAL. I didn’t realize how hot it actually was until I had the sun bearing down on me and I got frustrated I had to walk again from the heat, especially since I had finally got through the mud.

As we neared the finish, I didn’t even know how close I was until I was practically upon the end. In my head, I visualized having to run the same loop in the field next to the finish line that we made when we started in the AM. It wasn’t until I saw Erin and Dave and they let me know it was right around the corner, and then I got super excited.

When I made the turn and saw the finish line right there I had so many emotions. Excitement, pride, and gratefulness. I was so happy as I ran across that line and was handed my medal. Half of me couldn’t believe I was able to do it. I think the other half always knew I was going to make it to the end, given the tendonitis or not.

I tore my shoes off right at the end of the chute. It was instant relief. I have pretty calloused heels and it looks like all the slipping and sliding in the mud created friction against my heels and caused the inside to blister. I’ve never once gotten a blister on the inside there, even wearing the same sock and shoe combination on the same trail. Oh well.

POST RACE:

After enjoying a much deserved beer, me and my fam headed home to relax for the rest of the day. I thought I was going to be crippled my tendonitis, but I was actually walking fine and the pain didn’t flare up like I feared. Actually, the worst part was when we got home and I sat down after my shower and my knees were throbbing constantly. After some icing of both my knees and ankle, Erin and I went for a little walk and it helped my legs feel a little better.

So, there you have it! It took a little longer than I would have liked to get this post up, but that’s how it always goes for me. These past two and a half weeks have been very easy going for me as I’m still dealing with a little bit of peroneal pain. I’ve started running up again, but it’s very slow and careful. I know it’s time to start ramping up my training again, but with the tendonitis still there in the shadows, I’m trying to incorporate more cross training in than usual. Hopefully it goes away soon!

Once my training is more consistent, I’ll definitely start some weekly training logs. My goal now is to get to my 57 mile run healthy and happy, so I can make the most of the day and make my donators proud!

As always, if you want more consistent updates on how my training is going, you can always follow me on Instagram @amd022.

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All done – YAY!

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!

 

 

Training Update: February 27-March 5

Gahhhhhh I can’t believe it’s already March. But here we are. I’m not even going to apologize for posting my training late because I’ve had so much on my plate lately, I can’t believe I actually have time to right this update at the moment. So, I’ll just dive right into it.

This was a recovery week and I NEEDED it. After hiking old rag and having two long runs back to back last week I definitely was hurting. My left achilles, especially.

Monday, February 27: Rest day! I welcomed this day so much because I was absolutely exhausted from the weekend. I did some stretching today and that was about it other than work. I definitely noticed a tightness in my achilles, which I blame on power-hiking Old Rag.

When I came home from work I did have a nice surprise because Dave made dinner and it was awesome. The recipe came from Blue Apron and they were curry veggie fritters. He used gluten-free mazto meal instead of the regular they provided, and it was still delicious!

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Rest Day.

Tuesday, February 28: Woke up bright and early today because I needed to go to a training session in DC with Brooks. The session was pretty cool,  but I didn’t take advantage of most of the experiences they had there because I was crunched for time.

By the time I got home I didn’t have much time before I had to go to work. I decided to go for a little run on the Mt. Vernon trail and immediately felt the tightness still in my calves.  Other than the tightness, the run was pretty good.

Because my car was already at work (I carpooled to the Brooks event), I decided to just walk the 2 miles to the store instead of Uber. It was a beautiful day and the walk helped stretch my legs out a little bit more.

When I got home from work I did a little bit of strengthening, maybe 15 minutes? I focused mainly on abs and some leg lifts, but because my calves and hips felt so tight I was afraid to worsen the pain and I skipped out on a lot of exercises.

I also made myself Daiya Mac and cheese because it’s amazing, especially after a long day. It’s gluten-free AND vegan…so winning?

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LOOK AT IT.

3.2 miles road miles – 7:58 min/mile pace
2.6 miles walk to work
15-20 minutes strengthening – abs, some leg lifts

Wednesday, March 1: Woke up still feeling pretty tired so decided today would be a cross training day.

Well, that never happened. I did, however, go for a nice little walk midday before work to try and work through the million thoughts in my head. I ended up walking for about 40 minutes with the intention of doing an hour of cross training after work on the bike. lol.

40 minute walk on Mt. Vernon Trail – 2.4 miles

Thursday, March 2: For whatever reason, I love going for a run after my Thursday work shift. It’s such a stress reliever after work, and I always end up running over to Gravelly point to watch the planes take off and land.

It was pretty windy today so watching the planes take off reminded me of my harrowing experience landing at DCA in the 70 mph wind gusts, but that’s another story. I only stopped for a minute or so and then headed home.  I went nice and easy and my legs felt pretty good, despite lingering tightness in my left achilles. I ran in compression socks and have been wearing them almost all week to help with blood flow and the tightness.

5 road miles – 7:50 min/mile pace

Friday, March 3: Friday morning I decided to head into Clarendon to do some writing in a cafe I used to always go to before work. I actually got a lot of writing done for a few hours, but by midday I was pretty restless and decided to go for a short run. I ditched my stuff in the Clarendon store and went for a quick run around the nearby neighborhoods.

It was another really windy day, which made it feel a lot colder than it really was outside. I felt good on the run, other than my left achilles really tightening up mid run. LOTS of stretching afterwards.

When I got home from Clarendon I decided to craft up a delicious dinner for Dave and I. I made a tomato sauce with some broccoli, fresh tomatoes, zucchini, vegan sausage and goveggie parm cheese over gluten free shells. SO YUM.

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3.3 road miles – 8:00 min/mile pace

Saturday, March 4: Great Falls day! I’ve really come to love running in this park and I couldn’t wait to get there and get to run short AND easy. Dave ran a little bit with me, but for the most part I was alone. I felt really strong on the uphills, despite my achilles still being a little bitch. It was also a beautiful, winter morning (the first it feels like in forever) so I was in such a wonderful mood to be out there in my tights and long sleeve. All this warm weather so early on makes me super nervous for this summer.

I ended with 6.1 miles in the bank but because I couldn’t find Dave, I ran back out along the trail looking for him. I ended up running an extra mile looking for him, when all along he was just a few minutes behind me to get to the car and I left too soon. Whoops!

6.1 trail miles – 8:46 min/mile pace
1 mile through parking lots – 8:11 min/mile pace

Sunday, March 5: Originally this was going to be my second rest day of the week, but because I took Wednesday off, I wanted to cross train. I waited allllll morning and even though I had plenty of time before work I decided not to do it. Big mistake.

Work was super busy so by the time I got home I was exhausted. Decided not to get on my bike again and I took an extra rest day. Not mad about it, but seriously I SUCK at cross training and doing strengthening.

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my best friends this week: feetures compression socks!!!

Rest Day.

WEEKLY MILEAGE: 21.3 miles. Right on target for a recovery week!

NOTES ON WEEK: Not so bad. The not cross training and strengthening is really beginning to eat away at me but I have no one to blame but myself. I feel like I wouldn’t be struggling with my achilles if I was doing strengthening all along, but I’m trying not to get too hung up about it. I only have time and energy for so much.

I also was very careful with what I was eating this week, and I’ve noticed I really do feel 10X better when I avoid dairy. I’ve been doing well with being gluten-free (except I did start having a few beers here and there on the weekend with friends if I’m feeling ok) and I’ve been vegetarian now since January.  I’d really like to make the full commitment of being vegan because I find I feel SO much better, but I always find dairy sneaking into some of the snacks I eat.

So that’s about it. I always wish I felt a little bit better during recovery weeks but I think the point is to work out all those blah feelings in the legs and mind. I’m going to really be focusing on stretching and keeping my achilles pain under control this coming week… Ragnar is only a few weeks away!!! AHHHH.

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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