It’s 2018. So what?

(IT’S FEBRUARY NOW. I KNOW.)

New Year’s Day rubs me the wrong way. As usual, I’ve been letting these ideas toss around in my head for far too long, letting my mind roll over and over them, softening the edges once sharp and poignant.

January means change. Not all New Year resolutions are bad, but as an individual who used to make some pretty awful ones, I don’t seem to like them too much anymore. Other than the year turning on the calendar, January is no different than any other month.

I decided to make zero resolutions this year. And its not because I’m not an ambitious person or someone who is afraid to fail, but it’s because I think putting weight into the start of one day in particular is dumb. Usually, the moment you come off the rails of your resolution you feel an immense amount of guilt and negativity, and I’m not about that anymore. If living with Lyme has taught me one thing, it’s you take your days step by step. You cherish every little victory, even if it is only getting out of bed in the morning. You keep on fighting.

 

Maybe January and New Year resolutions piss me off so much because I see so many people tie their goals into the toxic diet culture surrounding us.

Recently, I’ve gone through a bunch of my old writings – journal entries, essays, short stories, my jumbled memoir pieces and there’s a haunting tone to many of them. An unease, uncertainty. Maybe it can be related to maturing, but I’m not so sure. Growing up, I was always acutely aware of what was expected from me and the image I needed to uphold. I was inquisitive and always listening, and knew whenever there was a problem with my family or friends. And I put the burden on myself, somehow taking the blame for those problems when they came up. I believed I failed to meet the expectations of these people in my life.

Flashback to high school – November, 2007. I am nothing more than a heap of blankets bathed in the blue glow of the television. There is a brief knock on the door and I could see my mother’s small figure against the light flooding in from the hall.

“Dinner is ready,” she announces, opening the door farther and allowing the intruding ray to widen on my carpet.

“Okay,” I mutter, retreating deeper into my cave of twisted sheets, deeper into the warmth of darkness. I’ve just learned I have a stress fracture in the femoral neck of my hip and I’m out for the rest of my cross country season, not to mention all of winter track as well.

She lingers for a moment longer, as if to say something more, but instead allows a low, exasperated sigh to escape her lips as she turned to retreat down the stairs.

Running is my everything.

On December 31st, 2007, I wrote a nasty New Year’s resolution journal entry to myself and vowed to make a change. It didn’t matter I was struggling with depression then, I figured if I lost weight and made a comeback to running I would be happy again. While I could read all the people around me, I let no one in. The darkness I felt clawing within was mine and I vowed to beat it on my own. I was afraid to give anyone the idea I was vulnerable and hurting. I was afraid to share my burden and break anyone else.

Running was my everything.

But it isn’t anymore.

I have my wonderful friends and family. I have a job I care greatly about. And I have dreams of being something more in my life than just a runner. Running is just a piece of me, not all of me. I’m not afraid to pursue other dreams like I used to be. I can travel. I can write in the early morning instead of hit the treadmill. I can lace up my running shoes, but then go for a walk instead to take photos, listen to music and enjoy nature. I can take each day at a time and not worry about missing training like I used to so many years ago.

Lyme has slowed me down, but in a good way. Lyme has made me realize I should chase my dreams no matter how crazy they are, and I shouldn’t be afraid to fail. Lyme has taught me I will fail, but just because I fail it shouldn’t mean I can’t get back up and try again.

In high school, when I began to fail at running, I blamed it all on myself. I blamed my hip stress fracture on my weight, not because I overtrained or my body didn’t adequately absorb enough calcium and vitamin D to keep my bones healthy. Society, and the particular highly competitive realm of running I was absorbed in, taught me to be fast you had to be skinny. And by being faster I would be successful. And if I was successful, I would be happy. In high school I did love running for the pureness of it, and for the serenity it gave me in an otherwise tumultuous time in my life. But I only wanted to be fast so I could get into a good college, and make my parents proud. Running was all I had.

I can still remember my first big race back from the stress fracture. The end of my senior year track season was upon me and my coach entered me in a track meet with an open 5k event at Holmdel High School. Because anyone could enter, my assistant coach was going to run in the race with me and my teammates to pace. I had never run a 5k on the track and I was nervous. But we knew the distance suited me, and this was my last chance at doing anything substantial for the season.

A few hours before the race, Erin and I got in the car to drive ourselves over to the track. The sun was low in the sky and the beautiful spring air brought hope of better days after a particularly hard winter. Erin drove and we rolled the windows down as we sped out of the neighborhood, the cool wind whipping our hair up in a wild dance around our faces. For whatever reason, I can’t remember now, we blasted Our Song on repeat as we drove along the rolling road, the low sun peeking in and out of the trees as we sang along to the lyrics. I remember looking up at the strawberry pink sky, sensing I was on the brink of something great.

It wasn’t long before I stood on the starting line, jumping up and down, shaking the nervous energy through my legs. I stared down at my blue and white Nike spikes I was given at Nike Team Nationals, and remembered my confidence and strength there. As I toed the familiar start line, I cleared my mind of any doubt. I thought about all the hard work I had put in since January. My return to running. Consistent training. Losing weight. I believed I was in the best shape of my life.

The starting gun rang clear through the light evening air and I settled quickly into the middle of the pack surrounded by my teammates as my assistant coach took the lead. All around me I could hear the labored breathing of my teammates, but the pace felt easy to me. Calmness overcame me, and there was something soothing about the sound of our spikes hitting the track, our feet lightly bouncing in a rhythmical cadence on the polyurethane surface. I loved being in the middle of the pack. I fed off the energy around me and let it carry me through the laps.

As we circled the track lap after lap the sun set behind the tree line and dusk settled over the field. The track lights were on and they glared down brightly at us as we continued along. Our pack strung out and only a few other girls hung on to my coach’s pace. But still, it felt too easy. I knew I had to go, and I was excited. As I confidently pulled neck and neck with my coach he could sense the energy I had left. He quickened the pace and I matched it. I could sense his excitement. We left the other girls quickly behind as he began to pull me along at a much faster pace. I wasn’t racing anyone but myself now.

I don’t remember pain from this race. I remember a lightness, a feeling of oneness and an understanding of myself and what I thought I was meant to do. When I crossed the finish line my coach met me with an enormous hug as I gasped for breath from sprinting the final lap. A great smile was plastered across my face and a sense of accomplishment overcame me, a feeling I had almost forgotten. I ran 18:44. It was the fastest I had ever run in my life.

I attributed my success that evening to my strict diet and training, not to my perseverance, or the raw talent and the determination I had from running for so many years. After finishing, I immediately thought how I could get faster. I thought about continuing my resolution. And I was happy, at least for a little while. Before I let myself spiral out of control.

In college, at the bottom of my spiral, I picked up the broken pieces of myself. It’s at Bucknell where everything imploded and it’s also here where I finally started taking control of my life again.

That’s not to say I stopped making horrible New Year’s resolutions. While in a sense I was no longer “sick”, my mind was still unhealed. It was like an open wound refusing to scar, and I couldn’t shake my horrible body image, or the other shadows lurking in the corner. Up through 2014, on each December 31st I would tell myself the next day I would get back on track. Each year, I tried to warp into someone different, not for myself but all the people around me. I felt pressure to be thin, but not TOO thin. To run and be fast, but not let it consume my life. To be constantly happy, even though life doesn’t always call for happiness.

I am stronger now.

Since 2014, I’ve obviously made some resolutions. Some of them had to do with my writing, some of them running, but I no longer have the desire to try and turn myself into someone I’m not.

So, there will be no resolutions this year, no vows to run, to write, or to change myself.

I still have plenty of plans and dreams to fulfill this year, but I’m going to take it step by step. This year, there will be excitement and good memories. There will be challenges and sadness. There will be opportunities and downfalls, clarity and confusion, and I’ll meet them head on like I always do.

It’s 2018.

A string of numbers. A date.

So what?

 

© Allison Donaghy 2018 All Rights Reserved

 

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The 57 miles (ok 59.8 miles) from Penn State to Bucknell RECAP

4 AM.

My alarm screams, ripping through the darkness and my eyes flutter open immediately. Scrambling quickly, I throw the heavy covers off myself in the dark hotel room and reach to silence my phone before I wake my parents. As I turn off my alarm I stare blankly into the dark room for a moment, trying to comprehend what I’m about to do.

Today is the day I run 57 miles from Penn State to Bucknell to raise money for Lyme disease research and awareness. It’s the day I’ve been training for since my diagnosis, over a year, and the day I prove to myself what my body is actually capable of doing. Surprisingly, I’m no longer nervous. I’m excited.

Shuffling quietly around the hotel room I gather my first outfit for the day. My parents are in the other bed and even though I’m tip-toeing around as if they are still asleep, I know they’re lying there awake, trying to process why my alarm rang at such an ungodly hour. But I can’t sleep any longer, and my legs are ready to hit the road.

Outside it is 40 degrees or so and I decide on a pair of tights, my Pacers race tank, arm sleeves, gloves and an incredibly lightweight jacket. The sun won’t come up until 7:30 AM so I stuff my jacket pocket with two LED lights and a headlamp.

Once dressed I push open the conjoining door to our other hotel room and join Dave and my sisters. We make sure my bag full of extra running clothes, nutrition, and shoes is set for the van, and we pack up the rest of our things for my parents’ car while I eat some toast and peanut butter. We quietly play the song Go the Distance from Disney’s Hercules, and giggle excitedly as we sing along, until my Dad comes in and sternly tells us to keep it down. As I ready my first bottle of Tailwind, Erin and I mouth the words silently to each other, still playing the song anyways, not letting my Dad put a damper on our energy.

When we step outside of the Nittany Lion Inn, I see the slick sheen of a wet street beneath the street lights, and realize it’s raining. It wasn’t forecasted, but because it’s just a drizzle I don’t worry too much. We hop in the van and drive through State College’s campus – not another soul on the streets. As we approach the stadium and the track facility my stomach does a flip flop. It feels surreal the moment is finally here.

We learned the day before the outdoor track was kept locked and we would be unable to get access to the traditional start line I had imagined myself standing at for so many months. But, because ROTC was practicing on the indoor track at 5:30 AM, I would be able to run a lap on the indoor track instead. As we hop out of the van I see the ROTC kids beginning to filter into the track facility, and I hurriedly grab my gels and gloves before rushing over to grab the locked door they’re holding open.

When I walk into the facility a flood of memories take hold. I remember the smell of the rubberized track, the lofty ceilings, and spacious warm up area. I remember the last time I stepped on this track as a freshman in college, sick and unready to run a 5k. I think about how that race felt apart for me, how I barely had energy to finish, and how disappointed I was in myself for failing my team. Not today, I say to myself as I approach the familiar 200m oval. Today, I would run a lap to start my 57 mile journey, on the track I never truly was able to be myself on and show my true potential.

ROTC shows me no particular interest as I step gingerly up onto the red lanes. I look over at my family waiting behind the rail and they smile encouragingly at me. My watch is

ready to go and reads 0:00:00. With a satisfying beep, the seconds start piling up on the watch face as I take my first few steps on the track.

It’s silent. I run past the 5k start and see my younger self standing there, unsure and afraid. I see a girl who doesn’t yet understand who she is and the strength inside her. She’s sad and confused, still struggling with depression and an eating disorder, and doesn’t know beauty and strength is more than a number on the scale or a reflection in the mirror. I blow past that girl on the track, my body strong, mind powerful and heart so full of love and gratitude it hurts. I don’t look back as I continue my lap around the track. I know she’ll be okay.

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My family cheers for me as I come back around the bend and finish my lap. I’m smiling now. It’s go time.

Once outside my Dad and Dave join me to run me out of Penn State. The roads are peaceful and dark and even though it’s chilly, I warm up quickly. We chat to pass the time as we run toward Route 45, the road I’ll be running the majority of my 57 miles on. As I try to keep pace in check, I notice the light drizzle is steadily increasing, and rain comes down steady and cold. Earlier in the first few miles we had all shed our jackets, but as the wind blows a sheet of icy rain in my face, I quickly throw my jacket back on in hopes of retaining a bit of heat.

Route 45 brings our first big challenge of the run. We run down the two lane road single file in the shoulder against traffic, but the road is narrow coming into Penn State. Traffic from the surrounding towns begins streaming in and we are faced with a constant line of fast-driving cars, coming dangerously close to the line. Even though we are decked out with headlamps, blinking lights and reflective gear, cars have a hard time seeing us in the rain, swerving out unexpectedly last minute as their headlights illuminate our single file line. Some cars angrily honk and my heart beats wildly in my chest. This was not what I imagined, and I am afraid for my family’s lives.

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Our first stopping point with Erin, Caitlin, and my mom is about 6-7 miles in. We can see them parked up ahead on the opposite side of the highway and I know it’s a no go. I’m already on edge because of my father’s frustration and the horrifying traffic, and as we come to a stop across the road from our caravan, we’re all suddenly screaming back and forth at each other with no real conversation happening.

“ENOUGH,” I finally scream. My entire body is shaking and I’m unsure if it’s from fear, frustration or the cold. “I’m running up ahead and I’ll meet you when I meet you.”

“I’m going to help them find a place to park up ahead,” Dave tells me and he expertly dashes across the road during a break in the traffic to talk with my mom.

“Let’s go,” my dad exclaims, “you stay behind me.”

The dark road and constant traffic is daunting. We make mad dashes across tiny bridges with no shoulder and I find myself singing over and over in my head, Jesus take the Wheel. I curse my sisters for getting the song stuck in my head in the first place, but I can’t deny how relevant the song is in the moment. Eventually, I see my mom and sisters in a pull-out up ahead and we re-assess, grab more fuel, and my dad and I decide to continue on together until the sun comes up.

The next few miles are a wash of head lights and rain. My dad runs ahead of me, the steady rhythm of his cadence guiding my own steps forward. I want to talk to him but there is no way he’ll be able to hear me over the traffic. In some ways, the silence is comforting in itself. We know we don’t have to talk to make a connection, running is our connection. Following his footsteps is something I’ve done all my life, and I feel comfortable with his reliable figure ahead of me.

Slowly, the sky lightens at the edges. The menacing dark fades and shadows of farmhouses and barns become clear against the graying sky. The silhouette of mountains surrounds us and my heart lifts as I watch the first ray of light peek through the trees on the horizon. We’re finally visible running along the shoulder and the traffic does not feel as threatening. My dad pulls along side of me for a moment. We look half crazed I’m sure – soaked to the bone from the rain and our brains still trying to comprehend the traffic. We ask each other if we’re okay, and we both lie, replying yes.

We meet up with the van around the half marathon mark and my dad switches off with Erin. Because the roads are still too dangerous to bike, she runs instead, packing her bike jersey full of nutrition and hydration. It’s still drizzling on and off and I change only my socks, deciding to keep on my damp outfit on until the rain is completely finished. Surprisingly, I’m not cold.

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The miles pass quickly as Erin and I chat about life, health, future plans and upcoming races. We fall into our old rhythm together and it is as if we’re out for just another training run, not 14 miles in to a 57 mile endeavor.

We are seamless with the undulating rhythm of Route 45 and we follow the ups and downs through winding countryside and one-street towns. It’s much later into the morning now but the world still seems to be waking. As we pass one farm in particular, all the cows in the pasture look up at us as we run by. Slowly, one of the cows trots after us. And then another. And another. I can’t help to pick up the pace as I glance back over my shoulder and see the whole herd chasing after us along the rickety fence. Laughing, we leave them at the end of the field, their curious eyes still staring as we disappear around a bend in the road. An Amish horse and buggy passes us a few moments later, and we wave to each other from the gravel roadside. It’s as if we’ve entered another world.

Being out in the Pennsylvania countryside reminds me of the hundreds of runs I set out on while a student at Bucknell. Runs I took with the team. Runs I took with new friends, Erin, or the runs I set out alone to try and find a little piece of my self. When I ran alone, I sought nature to heal me. Sometimes I ran to fight the demons I often felt lurking inside. Sometimes I ran to soothe heartache, and other times to distract myself from a feeling inside I did not quite understand how to describe. An emptiness I was sure I could fill if only I pushed myself a little harder, a little farther. If I felt a little more pain. I never found the answer then, but had a feeling I would today.

Miles pass. As we approach mile 23, I come to the parking lot of Millheim Small Engine Hardware. It is a small, local store and as I come up to the van I can see my dad up at the store front talking with an Amish man. At this point, I’ve fallen into a routine at my rest stops: check my Tailwind, grab more gels and check my socks. My legs are still feeling chilled so I decide to keep on my tights but opt to finally change out of my damp arm warms, tank and jacket. The rain must finally be done, I say to myself as I rummage through my bag, looking for my Bucknell training tech tee I’ve had since becoming a member of the cross country team. Grabbing the tee and sports bra from my bag I go around to the back of the shop where my mom tells me there is a port-a-potty and begin to change. As I don my fresh tops, I hear the pitter of rain against the plastic roof of the port-a-potty. Screw it, I say to myself as I burst out of the small bathroom and trot back over to the car. I love running in the rain, but I am quickly growing tired of it on this run.

When I get back to the car my mom tells me the owner of the shop wants to talk with me and he’s made a donation to my run. Although I’m eager to get back out onto the road, I know my run is just as much about the journey as it is about the running. I want this day to be about the people I meet and the memories I make with my friends and family as we raise awareness for Lyme disease research. I walk over to the man my dad is chatting with and introduce myself. His name is Henry and I learn his daughter is currently in treatment for lyme. He tells me her story and how no one could diagnose her, and how she probably had lyme for a long, long time once she was finally diagnosed. His story reminds me of how many people are affected by lyme and why I’m out running in the first place. I’m running for those who cannot, I remind myself. I’m 23 miles in, but I feel like I’m starting fresh.

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Dave runs a few miles with me and then switches off with my Dad. At this point we’re a few miles past my first marathon and we’re headed for Bald Eagle State Park. It’s here I’ll hit my biggest hills and where I expect my legs to start really hurting. As we near 30 miles, my dad and I run stride for stride, chatting about memorable runs long in our past.

“You’re going to learn a lot about yourself out here,” my dad says pointedly, during a lull in our conversation.

“I know.” Nothing else needs to be said.

A little past 30 miles we begin climbing a hill into Bald Eagle State Park. I can see a larger crowd of people standing on the side of the road up ahead. Our Bucknell alum friends have arrived, and I am excited to have fresh legs to run with and the energy they bring to all they do. There is a lot of hugging as I cross the road to greet them and they ask how I’m feeling. Surprisingly, my legs still feel relatively fresh other than some fatigue growing in my quads. I decide to finally change from my tights into shorts, and change into a new pair of Hokas, a wide width I planned to use as my feet swelled with the mileage. With a fresh pair of socks, I can almost trick myself into feeling brand new.

The guys decide to take turns running with me in groups of two or three. I head into Bald Eagle State Park with Justin and Tim and we talk to pass the miles as we continue to climb up and up. The trees are full of reds, yellows and oranges in Bald Eagle and even though my legs are starting to feel fatigued, I can’t help but feel happy to be running through the fall foliage with friends on a now-beautiful day. When we finally reach the top of an endless hill, around mile 35, Justin lets me know we’re at the top and it’s all downhill from there. Of course, I don’t believe him (he was right).

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The miles begin to blur together, but distinct memories stick out to me: randomly bursting into song, singing Vanessa Carlton’s A Thousand Miles as we head downhill through Bald Eagle; passing the gravel road where our cross country coach used to take us to run a wretched hill workout each season; leaving the park with Chuck and Mike and realizing I still have at least 18 miles to go.

It is the middle of the day now, and as we leave the shelter of Bald Eagle, I realize how much the road has warmed up in the sun. I assess how I’m feeling. My intake of water and Tailwind has been steady and with the help of my team, I successfully am taking gels every 45 minutes or so. Even though I have not eaten any real food since my toast early in the AM, I have no desire for real food. My legs feel stronger than I expected them to be this late in the game and my spirits are high.

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Throughout my training for this day I kept mentally preparing myself to deal with the inevitable wall I envisioned myself not only hitting, but slamming into full force once I went over a 50k. But the wall was no where in sight and in a moment of realization I knew I was never going to hit it. I was much stronger than I ever imagined. Every ounce of my body and soul was ready for this day and I was going to enjoy it.

Somewhere around mile 43 we come upon a gas station. I am running with Justin and Josh at this point, and I insist on going inside to try and go the bathroom. I don’t really need to go, even though I’ve been drinking fluids all day. Part of me feels I have to try because I had not gone since mile 7 of the run. We walk into the gas station and suddenly, everything feels surreal. I’ve been out on the road for so long running it doesn’t seem right for me to be in a public place, in front of other people, trying to function normally. Shuffling over to the bathroom I lock myself inside and look at myself in the mirror for the first time since the hotel room back in Penn State. It’s odd who I see staring back. I’m weary, but determined. My legs ache now, but they’re still strong. The days leading up to my run I had wondered, but what if I can’t finish, and now I only wondered what will we do once I’m finished?

Josh, Justin and I leave the gas station and head back out to Route 45. Although the road is beautiful, I’ve just about had it with the highway and when one of the guys suggest we hop over to the rail trail in a few miles I don’t hesitate to agree. It feels incredibly warm as we trudge along the open road and I can feel my stride shortening as I try to lessen the impact on my legs.

I keep shuffling along the shoulder as I get back into my rhythm after our stop, and step over what looks like a metal straight-edge spatula. Before my brain can even process what Justin is doing, I watch him scramble to pick it up mid step. As I look over my shoulder to see why he is holding it, I watch him turn back and chuck it tomahawk style down the shoulder. In a perfect arch, blade over handle, we watch it collide with a telephone pole, the metal end wedged deep into the wooden beam, sticking out perfectly perpendicular to the road.

“Did you see that?” Justin screams and for a moment we’re all just standing and shouting in excitement on the side of the road as we stare at a metal spatula sticking out of a telephone pole.

It’s then I realize we might be a bit dehydrated.

Mile 47 brings us to the Buffalo Valley Rail Trail. We’re about ten miles out and everyone is getting excited. My college coach is at the trail head and lets me know he plans to start track practice at the outdoor track because it should line up perfectly with my projected finish time. Even though I am so close, it is still hard for me to envision myself finishing yet. I know it is going to happen, but it seems too soon. My sense of time is warped.

The rail trail is relaxing. At this point I am taking small walking breaks more frequently, but it gives me more time to take in the little moments and appreciate all the support from my family and friends. My dad, Caitlin and Erin join me on the trail for one leg and it’s the first time I can remember all working out together since our childhood. Colorful trees and big open farm fields surround us and I begin to recognize the roads we cross over as ones I once ran down during college.

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My watch beeps and we hit 57 miles.

“Alright guys, we did it,” I jokingly exclaim pretending to slow to a stop, even though we have a few more miles ahead of us. The 57 miles stares up at me from my watch and it’s hard to imagine all those miles behind me. The morning’s dark treacherous miles seems like an entirely different day and I had been having so much fun with my family and friends over the past few hours, the miles built up effortlessly. Before the run, there was a part of me believing if the run ended up being more than 57 miles I wouldn’t be able to run another step. But here I was continuing on toward Bucknell, planning out what we would do for dinner since I was actually finishing at a normal hour.

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About 1.5 miles out, I say goodbye to most of my crew as they speed off to the finish. Our assistant coach, Coach Rob, from Bucknell has run out on the trail to meet me and run me to the track with Erin, Dave and a few other Bucknell guys. Being so close to the end, I feel a surge of energy and I know it will all be over soon, so I try to take in every moment. Every step takes me one closer and I can feel the emotions beginning to build. Soon my feet are carrying me down a familiar route I’ve run countless times before.

We hit Market Street and I gingerly step along the cracked sidewalk. The busy street is lined with Lewisburg’s historic green three-globe lamp posts and it’s a sign we’re finally home. We hang a right onto 7th street and campus looms ahead of us.

Running down 7th street feels natural. Back in college, I ended so many of my runs cruising down this road back to my dorm or the field house. It takes us past Stucco, our cross country house and past 7th Street Cafe, one of my places of work while a student. As we pass by Stucco we all glance over at the pale yellow house where we spent a good deal of our time. It held different memories for all of us I’m sure, but many we also shared.

We hang a right onto Moore Avenue and are greeted by Welcome Home decals hanging from the lamp posts. Campus is just as I always remember it, and I can almost trick myself into thinking I’m still a student and returning to campus after a quick afternoon run. We head down Moore and as we near the outdoor track, the guys race ahead to watch me finish. Coach Rob runs me up to the gates, and leaves me to run through to the track on my own.

My heart is pounding and I can’t stop smiling. This is it. The moment I’ve been envisioning for over a year. The moment where I enter Bucknell’s track and finish in the spot where I finished my collegiate career.

As I run through the front gate, my friends, family, and the track team are all waiting for me. They clap and cheer as I run past and I am overwhelmed by the support. I step onto the blue and orange lanes and am greeted with the all-too familiar smell of polyurethane. It reminds me of past workouts, races and endless loops with my teammates. It reminds me of the place I came from and the hardships I endured to make me the person I am today.

Rounding the final bend I can feel tears welling in my eyes. I am proud of myself. Proud of all I accomplished in the past 10 hours or so, and all it took for me to get to this moment. All my failures, struggles, accomplishments, and dreams led me here to the finish.

Running has always grounded me and steered me to clarity in my life. As I near the finish I think about the doctors who told me I wouldn’t be able to run again after my knee surgery and I should take up another “hobby.” I remember the triumph I felt after I finished my first marathon and qualified for Boston, the pride I had finishing Boston, and the absolute elation I felt after taking on my first 50k while still in treatment for Lyme. I think about all the things people have told me I can’t do and how I went and did them anyways – sometimes in spite, and sometimes to prove to myself I wasn’t the broken individual I often felt like.

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Crossing the line, I throw my hands triumphantly into the air. I slow to a stop and hit the final split on my Garmin to end the run. There’s so much hugging and celebration that I could not stop smiling if I tried. The final mileage on my Garmin states 59.8 miles in 9:28:49 (10:50:18 was the total elapsed time from start to finish).

After standing on the track for a bit, it finally dawned on me it was over. I raised $6,350 for Lyme disease research and awareness but the journey to and during November 2nd, was more than I could have ever asked for. The sun is setting as I slowly walk off the track (this is where the sore quads finally caught up with me) and I am so thankful for what my body was able to do and for all the friends and family who helped me along the way. I looked over my shoulder one final time at the finish line of my journey as we walked out toward the waiting car.

Until next time.

Many, many thanks to all who supported me during my training and the day of my event. I couldn’t have done it without my many friends who got me out the door on long run days and kept me company on endless runs. 

And again, thank you so much to my support crew: my parents (moms and dads on both sides of the fam!), Caitlin, Erin, Dave, Chuck, Josh, Chris, Justin, Tim, and Mike!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet of Champions Circa 2006

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Hello!!!

It’s been a hot minute. My 57 mile run (actually 59.8 – but who’s counting?) for Lyme disease awareness is over and it was spectacular! I can’t believe it’s over and I do plan on writing a recap of the day, but it’ll have to wait. Today, I want to post an old piece of mine about Meet of Champions back in 2006. The recent autumn weather has been giving me all the feels about past cross country seasons, and because NJ Meet of Champions is tomorrow, I decided to post an old writing piece on when my team and I won it in 2006.

Tomorrow, the girls Colts Neck XC team lines up in Holmdel Park to go for the win again. I wish I could be there, so this is me being all nostalgic and what not for the days when I was an xc machine.

Enjoy!

November 17, 2006

November always meant the end of cross country season. The days were shorter, the air was colder, and by then the trees stood half naked, barely holding on to their brown and dying leaves. November was my favorite month. It meant I was at the peak of my training and I was ready to run fast.

In November of 2006, my team had more than a state championship title on the line. We had Nike Team Nationals. We needed more than just a win the next day. We needed speed. We needed heart and courage, and the ability to put everything on the line without fear.

Silence. None of the eight of us spoke during our shakeout run the day before state championships. The sun was already setting and we moved steadily through the somber air. We ran close, together as one. I could hear the crunch of gravel beneath our feet and when I exhaled my breath frosted up in front of me like a wispy cloud in the sky. It was a beautiful evening and the wind blew the dead leaves across the path in a swirling pattern, dancing together. As we looped the soccer field, the sun was low enough to peek through the thin trees on the other side of the park, causing great rays of light to escape, creating a striped pattern on the field.

Our captains stopped toward the end of the run and the rest of us huddled around them knowingly. Words were not important at this point. Or at least they were not as important as the electric feeling in the air. We were ready. From the moment we lost the bid to Nike Team Nationals the previous year we began our preparations for success in 2006. Practice six times a week. High mileage weeks. Speed work. Hill work. Long runs. Tears. Blood. Courage. Friendship. I looked at my captains and realized this was it. There would not be another Colts Neck high school cross country season for them when they graduated at the end of the year. We knew the only way for us to get to Nationals was for each and every one of us to give our all.

We huddled together only for a few moments, but it seemed like hours. I felt serene, despite the nervous energy pulsing through every vein in my body. I knew I would never forget this moment.

After practice, Erin and I walked from the locker room to my mom’s waiting car. We did not say anything to one another. I looked down and closed my eyes as the car drove away, sputtering exhaust into the dark sky.

I visualized the race the next morning. I saw the park littered with people, teeming with its own heartbeat as spectators gathered by the starting line. I saw myself racing through the woods, going up and down and up and down with the rhythm of the progressing hills. I followed the girls ahead of me like the rolling swells of the ocean. I felt my lungs screaming, my legs growing heavy, and I felt the pain and embraced it. I could smell the crisp, autumn air and hear the undying roar of the crowd urging me onwards to the finish line. I could test the fear of my competitors and sense their aches and pains, so much worse than my own.

I could see the finish. Feel my feet giving out from under me. Feel my entire body screaming as the last of my energy escaped my gasping breaths. I could feel the scratchy, yellow ropes at the finish chute, and could feel my breath come back to me as the ground slowly stopped spinning beneath me and I finally felt anchored in place.

I was ready.

November 18, 2006

I can hear the screams of the crowd through the woods. I am close, within a mile. I have run Holmdel so many times before it now feels like I am greeting an old friend. I know every inch of the course, every tree root, bend in the path, and certainly every hill. I know when I am supposed to feel fresh, dig deep, hurt, and hold on. Now was the holding on part.

Despite my nerves and the extra electricity laced through the air the race started like any other. When the starting gun rang clear I jolted off the line like a coiled spring let loose. I felt lost within the hundreds of girls sprinting across the field as we jostled for position before the course bottle-necked up our first real hill. I settled in. This was my sit and wait time.

No longer did I feel the pressure of our team placing first. I had one goal: focus on the moment. Catch the girl in front of me. Lean into the hill. Don’t. Let. Go.

And now the finish line was close. My father had been standing at the entrance of the path right before we plummeted back into the woods at the 2.5 mile mark, yelling his support. Con Te Partiro, Time to Say Goodbye, he shouts in his always steady voice. We both know I am running the fastest I ever have at Holmdel. If only I can hold on. Earlier, when I emerged out of the Bowl and hit the two mile mark my coach yelled out one of my fastest miles at the park, even with the monstrous uphill.

My father and the rest of the crowd disappear as the path curves into the woods. I have no idea where my other teammates are but based off the crowd excitement, I know we are doing well. A few other girls surround me as we race down hill after hill, making our much deserved descent to the finish line. I can hear the booming cheers from the finish, beckoning me forward. My body is screaming and I swear my lungs are going to burst, but I push it more anyways.

Without a win this will be our last cross country race of the season and then it would be onward to the endless loops of the indoor track. I wanted more xc and I wanted to win and go to nationals more than ever. I push up the final hill, short but steep, and pass two girls as we hit the crest. I open up my stride at the top just like my coach taught me and I am confident I can beat them out on the homestretch as they fall quickly behind me.

When I burst out of the woods the atmosphere is like none I have ever experienced. The homestretch is completely lined with spectators and they jump up and down as they cheer in a wild sea of colors. The roar is deafening and their screams fill me with adrenaline once more. Some individuals are standing on their cars and RVs parked on the far side of the field and they frantically wave signs in the air as they try and balance. I begin to sprint and the crowd catches on, screaming so loud I am afraid the girls I passed on the final hill are catching me again. But I dare not look back. I push harder and I can hear my coach screaming, GO GO GO, and I reach for more inside but there is nothing left to give. My legs are numb and my breathing is almost hyperventilating, but I am upon the finish line. I can see my two teammates already finished and I hear them screaming my name, giving me the final push to lean forward across the line.

An official steadies me by the arms and pulls me gently, almost nicely, from the finish line where girls are continuously coming in. With a pat on the back she pushes me forward into the finish chute and I grab the yellow ropes to steady myself as I stumble forward with the other girls. I have finished 35th out of 181 girls. As I gasp for breath I catch eyes with my finished teammates and before I know it I am in their arms as we hug and wait. Within minutes the rest of our team is finished and my coach has already calculated the score on his clipboard. We have won the Meet of Champions by 66 points. My parents hug me and then hug Erin. I look around, at my teammates, my coaches, and I see nothing but smiles and laughter.

A little while later we are standing atop a podium accepting our first place medals and trophy. My smile has not left my face since finishing and I happily look down at my parents and friends as they cheer and clap ecstatically for us. Cameras flash. And in that moment we are not only standing atop the podium but it feels as if we are atop the world. Invincible. Completely untouchable.

Good luck to CNXC tomorrow! It was fun for me to look back on this memory. If you’re feeling even more nostalgic, you can re-read my post about NTN HERE.

Stay tuned for my Penn State to Bucknell Run Recap in the next week or so!

 

© Allison Donaghy 2017 All Rights Reserved

 

Something Wild.

Something Wild. That’s how I’ve been feeling lately.

Something Wild is actually a song I’ve been listening to a lot lately. The lyrics inspire me, the melody awakens me, and the song makes me realize how much I’ve grown. Training for my 57 mile run is changing me. The long training runs give me time to look at myself in retrospect, to look at the broken path I’ve run down, and realize how I built the road before me with those pieces.

You had your maps drawn
You had other plans to hang your hopes on
Every road they let you down felt so wrong
So you found another way

Running helps define who I am and I don’t think it’s a bad thing.

My running career has been anything but simple. It’s been a rollercoaster ride. A hike with so many peaks and valleys I’ve lost count of the times I’ve stood triumphantly at the summit and felt lost in the low depressions, surrounded by seemingly unclimbable hills and towering pines. But still I run, blindly following where my feet guide me next.

Running brings peace and calmness to my life. When I’ve struggled in my personal life and/or professional life, running is what helped me disconnect from the madness. There are times where I felt so lost, I wasn’t sure if the path I was traveling down was the right one. Sometimes it was, sometimes it wasn’t. Sometimes the road cracked and crumbled beneath my feet. Sometimes I came to a dead end and couldn’t imagine turning around and going back down the twisted way I’d already stumbled through. But in these times I could always clear my mind with a run through the woods. And when I was injured, I visualized myself being back out there – breathing in and out, a methodical rhythm, one foot softly landing before the other across a leaf-strewn path.

And I found another way.

You’ve got a big heart
The way you see the world
It got you this far
You might have some bruises
And a few scars
But you know you’re gonna be okay

For as long as I can remember, I cared most about everyone but myself. Whether it was a boy, friend, family or boss, I was terrified of disappointing anyone in my life. I always put myself last in hopes it would mean I would never lose those people in my life. It worked for a little awhile, until the stress and anxiety caused me to disintegrate. Other than family, I lost those people anyways. It wasn’t until recently, as I was struggling to find my diagnosis with lyme, did I learn it’s okay to put myself first and take care of the pain I felt.

I do have many bruises and scars, and it’s okay. I used to be embarrassed of who I used to be and the things I did. By no means am I proud of myself in some of those instances, but I no longer feel the urgency to keep the “old me” locked away and secret, in fear of being judged. I don’t care if you judge me or see me in a different light. I don’t care if you know I struggled with depression, anxiety, and an eating disorder – I’ll put it out there bluntly for you because those things don’t define who I am anymore. They never did (as much as I thought so in the moment). It took me a really long time to realize this, and even though it’s been many years, I don’t think I could understand until I was truly okay.

And even though you’re scared
You’re stronger than you know

I’m not ashamed of the old me. The old me is one of the strongest people I know.

And I’ve only gotten stronger.

If you’re lost out where the lights are blinding
Caught in all, the stars are hiding
That’s when something wild calls you home, home
If you face the fear that keeps you frozen
Chase the sky into the ocean
That’s when something wild calls you home, home

Nature heals. And running allows me to experience the world in such unique fashion. There is an orchestral interlude during Something Wild where the violinist plays a folksy melody reminding me specifically of running through Ireland’s green countryside with my dad and Erin. We headed out early in the morning from our rental cottage near the sea, the salty air filling our lungs and hearts. The narrow roads were lined with large archaic-looking stones, and we hopped through them, onto a strait through the receded bay where herds of sheep grazed lazily, thinking nothing of the rising tide to come later. I don’t remember the conversations had (and it’s possible we ran mostly in silence, taking in the beautiful landscape around us) but I do remember the green, the crunch of gravel beneath our feet, and the languished squawks of seabirds above. I remember this lightness in my chest and calmness in my mind as we ran in a line toward the sea, and the sun rose higher above us. There was no other place we were supposed to be in that moment, experiencing the freedom and beauty of Ireland before most people were even awake.

On this same trip, I can also remember sitting in a small pub late at night with my family, as my parents sipped Guinness and we listened to a band playing traditional Irish jigs and reels. As we sat in the dim pub, my parents tapping their feet to the fast beat, I sat hunched over my notebook writing endlessly. Back then, I was in my early teens, I used to carry paper with my everywhere so I could write my stories whenever I had a chance. The music inspired me, and even though I never looked up from my paper, I felt as if I was experiencing that pub and music in the best way possible. At one point, the lead musician came over to my parents and commented he had been watching me the whole time during the set and noticed I hadn’t stopped writing once. My parents said, “she’s a writer,” and my heart swelled with pride. As I scribbled out my story the rest of the night, I thought of myself as a real writer, and imagined myself doing it as a profession.

These moments of clarity are living. These are the memories I hold nearest to my heart, and running has given many to me.

Lately, I am tired of feeling trapped, spinning in the same circle as I try to find the right balance between my responsibilities. For a long time, I forgot I am a writer, even though my younger self was so sure. I lost my writing after college to a high demand job, and then my brain fog from lyme took my vocabulary. And as it’s slowly coming back, I know I AM still a storyteller.

When I left my job in communications just about two years ago, I left for several reasons. I was sick, I was unhappy, and I wanted to bring back meaning to my life, which otherwise felt stale. I wanted to rediscover myself and see if it was possible for me to take part in my life again, instead of standing by and watching it whirl by in front of me. And while it was hard to let go of who I thought I was, it ended up being the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. Being a disappointment to family and friends has always been one of my greatest fears, but when I finally stood up to my fear and left the job to focus on finding what truly made me happy, I became an even better person. I learned it doesn’t matter what you think others think of you and the choices you make in your life, because ultimately it’s your life. And your happiness matters most. You don’t have to have a corporate job to be successful and respected by others. And I didn’t learn this until I let go of the standard we’re taught that without a corporate/professional job after college we are not successful.

There is not just one equation for success.

I believe happiness is the ultimate success.

Sometimes the past can
Make the ground beneath you feel like a quicksand
You don’t have to worry
You reach for my hand
Yeah I know you’re gonna be okay
You’re gonna be okay

When I envision myself running 57 miles I don’t think about being sick or past injuries I struggled through. No matter the injury or sickness I was dealing with, I always planned to get back to running. I was always hopeful and believed in my ability to get back to the roads and trails where I could be myself.

When I stress fractured my hip my senior year of high school it nearly broke me, but I persevered and ran a personal best in the 5k once healed. After my knee injury and surgery in college, a surgeon told me I should never run again, and certainly not long distance. But I believed in myself. And after I taught myself how to walk again, I taught myself how to run again. And I started slow and the process was painful and challenging, but it was all worth it when two years later I ran my first marathon. Giving up is something foreign to me. Don’t ever let someone else tell you what you can and cannot do.

I don’t let my past injuries and challenges in life define how I look at the future. 57 miles is the biggest challenge I’ve ever embarked on, and even though I have a past riddled with injuries it doesn’t mean I can’t do it. After being a competitive long distance runner for 18 years, I know my mind needs to be stronger than my body. And I’ve never been surer my positive mentality will carry me through. I couldn’t run for three weeks before my 50k this past April, but once I got out there on the trails I fell into the same mentality I always have during runs: a blank tranquility only focused on putting one foot in front of the other. Again and again.

So, I guess what the song helped me realize is it’s okay to take a different path than the one you always expected yourself to go down. It’s okay to have a complex past, to see yourself in different stages of life as different people who finally grew into the wonderful person you are today. Having the urge to be free from every day routines is natural. I know every once and awhile I need to immerse myself in nature, set myself loose into the wild.

Because the wild is home to me.

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Living with Lyme

May is Lyme disease awareness month!

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

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

HEADACHES/MIGRAINES 

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

FATIGUE

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

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

INFLAMMATION

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

DIGESTIVE ISSUES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Thank you for reading – until next time!

 

 

Fighting Self Doubt

I haven’t updated in awhile. Not my weekly training updates, not a fundraiser update…NOTHING. And I’m feeling a little guilty about it. Because when I’m hurting I have a habit of shutting myself off from the world.

For the past three-four weeks I’ve been battling a sprained ankle/peroneal tendonitis. I felt the first twinges in my peroneal the week leading up to the Tennessee Ultra Ragnar, but during the race only felt twinges of pain during my first leg. After ragnar, I took an easy week and didn’t think anything of it. But as I began building the next week I noticed my peroneal was increasingly tight. After I did my last 20 miler out on the flooded trail, I could hardly walk the day after. It’s then I knew I was in trouble.

I took a week off. I didn’t do a damn thing except a few walks here and there and I could tell my peroneal was feeling much better. But when I went to run after a week of rest, the pain came right back. Once I finished my 10 miler on Good Friday I was in the same boat – I couldn’t walk right without pain. Immediately, I felt like a failure. I’ve been training for this 50k for so long, just to get injured in the final stage. So I shut down. I refused to leave the apartment all weekend except for work, and I disconnected from life. I had tunnel vision and I could only focus on how my 50k dreams were out the door.

This was about two weeks ago. and I’m doing much better. I started seeing a physical therapist, running on an underwater treadmill, and taking long walks to ease my anxiety and pent up energy. It’s hard to go from 50 miles a week to zero. But at some point between PT and waking up at the crack of dawn to run on the underwater treadmill, I started feeling better about my impeding 50k, even though my tendonitis still bothered me. I faced reality. My goal this year is my 57 miler in November – not the 50k, no matter how much I trained for it.

Once I stopped stressing, my body started recovering. The inflammation in my peroneal went down and I stopped having pain walking. This past week, after my last PT appointment, I made the decision to try and race. I went for a short jog on the treadmill and had no pain, so I decided I could at least start the race with the option of dropping out if the pain built up too much. I was nervous about toeing the line without any real training/running for three weeks prior, but I also trusted myself. As long as my peroneal didn’t hurt, I knew I could finish.

I’ll have a real race recap later on, but I made it and I am so happy! I couldn’t have done it without the constant support of my friends and family, and I can’t believe it’s already over. Once the race started, I was so excited to be out there running again nothing else mattered. I took in every little moment: the sunrise over the foggy Potomac, the determined forms of runners zig zagging up a steep hill before me, and the sound of my own breath breathing steadily in and out, in and out.

A little bit of ankle pain set in around mile 18 but I started incorporating more walking and the pain never got any worse. Honestly, the course was so muddy in the last 9 miles or so it was IMPOSSIBLE to run. Every person I saw who tried to run through on the trail wiped out in front of me, and I knew if I went down I’d probably have a real rough time getting back up and going with the pain. So I did some speed walking with super-duper short steps cursing the mud under my breath every time I felt my feet lose traction beneath me, causing my already-sore muscles to tense with the thought of falling down.

When the finish line was finally in sight, you couldn’t wipe the smile off my face if you tried. I was excited and so happy to finish with relatively little peroneal pain. It was 92 degrees out (seriously, what the HELL was up with this weekend’s weather?!) and I still felt relatively fine hydration/nutrition wise. The most painful part of the day was the two blisters I formed on my heels in the last 10 miles – probably from the slipping in the mud and friction caused. No lie – my heels are STILL pulsating and I’ve never had this problem with my shoes/socks before.

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So, now what? I saw my doctor the day before the 50k, and he checked my ankle/fibula for any stress fractures and I’m good. He recommended taking some down time after the race to let any inflammation in my peroneal to go down, and I’ll be starting more extensive PT tomorrow. I still have my eyes on my 57 mile charity run in November, and I’ll be starting training back up in June. This month, I’d like to get back into a routine of not only running, but cross training and strengthening CONSISTENTLY. If tendonitis has taught me anything, this diversity in my training is going to be vital. I’m also looking for a coach to help get me through this summer/fall healthy for my event. But I guess we’ll see. And of course (because I always say this), I’ll try to update my blog more regularly.

Look forward to my 50k race recap soon and once I begin training regularly again, I’ll try to post updates every week or so. For now, it’s rest and recover time. And believe me, my legs need it.

 

Training Update X2: March 6 – March 19

I missed a weekly update! I kept writing it in my weekly planner but I never got around to actually making the post. Eventually, I decided it would just be best to do a two-week update.

I’ve ran plenty of miles and it’s been an interesting past two weeks. So let’s just jump right into it. It’s a lonnnggggg post – so buckle your seat belts.

Monday, March 6: The first run of the week! I took it nice and easy so I could see how I was feeling for the rest of the week.

3.2 road miles – 25:25 minutes, 7:56 min/mile pace

Tuesday, March 7: Workoutttttt day. As per usual, I opted for the treadmill to get my speedwork done. I felt good and strong, and enjoyed the slightly different tempo workout than I usually do.

After a 15 minute warm up I did speed intervals – 2, 4, 2, 4, 2, 4, 2 minutes with half time rest in between. I felt strong the entire time and once the workout was done, I hopped outside for a 2 mile cool down. Because it was so nice, I ended up walking for a mile after my cool down and I saw a bald eagle!!!

15 minute warm up and workout (6.4 miles) – 45:21 minutes, 7:05 min/mile pace
2.1 mile cool down on road – 17:10 minutes, 7:53 min/mile pace
1 mile walk – 18:43 minutes

Wednesday, March 8: Pretty standard day. Not much to say other than I ran outside for five miles and felt alright.

5 road miles – 39:39 minutes, 7:55 min/mile

Thursday, March 9: Early on, I decided I wasn’t going to run today. I wanted to give my legs a rest before a long weekend of running and I wanted to sleep in as long as I could to rest up for the miles as well.

It turned out to be an absolutely gorgeous day. I couldn’t wait to leave work and go for a walk in the 70 degree weather. As soon as my shift was up I drove home eager to get outside and it was awesome. I walked for about 4.5 miles talking with my sister on the phone and it was the most relaxing time I’ve had all week.

4.4 mile walk – 1:10:43 mins 

Friday, March 10: Earrrrlllyyyy morning. I helped out at the Arlington store because they were short staffed, even though Friday is usually my day off. In order to still get my long run in, I thought it would be a good idea to run to the store. I packed a bag (not my awesome hydration vest) with food, a change of clothes, and some other necessities and headed out early to try and beat the impeding rain.

The run started out sucky. My stomach was really bothering me this morning and I had bad cramping before I even got out the door. I was unsure how the run was going to end up, especially after a shaky first two miles but things turned out not too bad. The last two miles to the store were uphill and I felt really strong, so I’m happy with this. By the time I made it to the store I only had 7.5 miles so I added on a few miles until I hit 10.5, and then headed to Peets to have coffee until it was time to open.

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happy after my morning run!

As soon as I sat down in Peets, the sky opened up and it was a torrentiallllll downpour. I timed my run just right and was so relieved to make it inside before the cold rain which than turned to snow. Had it rained on me, it would have gotten my bag soaking wet and even though I wrapped everything in plastic bags, my clothes probably would have still somehow gotten soaked. It was nice to watch it come down while I warmed up and sipped my coffee.

After working at the store, I ran into DC to meet Dave at his worksite. Since we were driving to our friends’ house in Maryland when he was done work, it made most sense for me to just meet dave at work and leave from there. The run was very windy but my legs felt good for the most part. I wasn’t as tight as I thought I might be, but that’s probably because I was hustling at work the entire time.  I ran about 4 miles and walked the rest of the way to the worksite.

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Once at our friends’ house, the guys did a lot of drinking. I left around 11 pm to drive home and sleep in my own bed, because I knew sleep was never going to happen at the house. Still didn’t get as much rest as I wanted, but there’s not much else I could do.

AM RUN: 7.7 road miles – 1:03:49, 8:14 min/mile pace THEN 2.8 miles at 24:23, 8:41 min/mile pace
PM RUN: 4.4 road miles- 37:24, 8:18 min/mile pace

Saturday, March 11: Longgggg run day! I wish I could have slept in longer because of going to bed so late, but I had to get up and get my run started early so I could celebrate dave’s bday with the guys.

I headed to Great Falls Park and was on the trail earlier than I’ve been able to make it in the past. It was pretty chilly this morning – in the teens – but I heated up SO FAST. I was in a long sleeve and jacket and tights, and within 10 minutes of running, I wished I wasn’t wearing my jacket. But oh well.

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cheezin’ half way through the run

The run was really beautiful. I practiced the trail how I plan to race it come 50k day and I walked the big uphills and took time to hydrate and eat plenty. I made it out farther on the trail than I have before and it was so peaceful having the forest all to myself. I definitely was feeling tired on the way back, and ended up stopping a mile short of what I originally planned. But I’m not even mad – the run was amazing! Considering my tight achilles and sore legs from the day before, 17 miles on the trail was perfect.

The rest of the day was spent with Dave and the guys celebrating Dave’s upcoming bday. They did a lot of drinking but I only had two beers or so throughout the entire day. I left the house around 8 pm because I was so exhausted, and I enjoyed the rest of the night to myself laying on the couch and relaxing before bed.

17.1 trail miles – 2:37:35, 9:13 min/mile pace

Sunday, March 12: I let myself sleep in nice and long this morning because I was feeling so tired. Didn’t feel like running when I woke up so I went and got Starbucks instead and sat doing a crossword and relaxing before work.

Work wasn’t too bad, and once I was done I decided to head out for a quick shake out before dinner. It was a beautiful evening, and thanks to Daylights Saving there was still sunlight! My legs were a little sore, but I felt a lot better than I thought I would with all the running around this weekend.

2.6 road miles – 21:09 minutes, 7:57 min/mile

WEEKLY MILEAGE: 52.1 MILES

NOTES ON THE WEEK: 52 miles!!! yay! Really happy with my long runs this week, despite the extra stress of late nights and traveling around. Made me feel really confident for my training to come.

Monday, March 13: Nice and easy run this morning to start the week. I felt really good and fresh, just a little tight in my calves/achilles still. It was a beautiful morning, especially given I knew the weather was going to get nasty tomorrow.

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the calm before the storm

4.2 road miles – 7:56 min/mile pace

Tuesday, March 14: Dave’s birthday! And snow! Haha, a lot was happening this day. Woke up to a wintry mess and learned my morning meeting was cancelled. So I slept in and kept delaying doing my workout because I felt so tired. When I woke up again, I learned the store was opening late, so I still had time to do my workout. I felt like I was being given all the signs to go and get my run in, so after some coffee and breakfast I headed down to the treadmill. I told myself I didn’t have to do my workout if I wasn’t feeling it. As much as I didn’t want to run on the treadmill…I don’t mess around with the ice anymore (it’s what took out my knee in college).

Once I got warmed up, I actually felt good and decided to do the workout. I ran 6X5 minute uptempo repeats with 1 minute rest in between. My 5 minute repeats were in between 6:30-6:15 min/mile pace and it felt great!

After my work out I headed to work and it was slowwwwwww. I guess no one wanted to come out in the snow/rain mess and I got to head out early which was super helpful because I wanted to pick up some cupcakes and grab some wrapping paper for Dave’s gift.

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pretty snow falling at work 🙂

We went to Hibachi for dinner and it was delicious! I got so many veggies and fried rice – makes me hungry just thinking about it!

15 minute warm up, 6X5 min uptempo repeats w/ 1 min rest – 7.3 miles, 50:30 minutes, 6:55 min/mile pace
2 mile cool down – 8:10 min/mile pace.
Total of 9.3 miles for the day

Wednesday, March 15: I was tired today. Decided to make it my rest day for the week. Did a good amount of icing, stretching and rolling!

Rest Day

Thursday, March 16: Not a good day. I wasn’t feeling great in the morning at work and then a headache started up in the afternoon. I left around 4 PM and usually I am super excited to get out the door and go for my run. But I felt so tired and unmotivated. I knew as soon as I got home I was going to collapse on the couch and not want to move. And that’s exactly what happened.

So, right before my shift ended at work, my right shoulder started to hurt. And it wasn’t just a little bit of pain here and there…if I moved my arm pretty much any way, I had radiating pain from my joint down into my arm. I didn’t lift and boxes or do anything weird…the pain just started randomly. At first, I wasn’t concerned about it. But as I got ready to leave work the pain got even worse, so I knew I was screwed with trying to get my run in.

I sat around watching tv for a few hours until Dave got home and I felt awful. I was even more tired than I was while at work and if I tried to move my arm the pain was ridiculous. Since Dave was going down to the gym to get a quick run in, I decided to try and join him. But getting dressed was a struggle. Putting my shoes on was a bitch. I got so frustrated and upset I told Dave to just go without me.

While dave was out of the apartment, I waffled back and forth about going down to join him. Against my best judgement, I decided to try and run and I trudged down to the gym.

It sucked. I was running slow but I felt horrible. Every muscle in my body hurt and I made it 3 miles before I had to quit because of the pain in my shoulder. I was supposed to go 7 today.

I’m not mad about missing out on a few miles because I know it happens and it’s best to listen to my body when it’s hurting. I guess I’m more angry about all the pain and fatigue, seemingly for no reason. But now, in retrospect, it’s possible I was herxing a bit.

3 mile treadmill run – 24:00 mins, 8:00 min/mile pace

Friday, March 17: St. Patrick’s Day! This day has been highlighted on my calendar – not because of drinking festivities, but because I had 20 miles marked down for the day. It was my first time going for 20 since marathon training quite a few years ago and I was actually pretty nervous about it. I decided to skip out on the trails because of the snow and ice still lingering, and I’m happy with my decision given the amount I still ran into out on the paved trail.

I was a little worried about my shoulder because it still hurt this morning. It wasn’t as bad as last night, but if I moved my arm in the wrong way it sent radiating pain down my arm. I thought my hydration vest might bother me a little bit, but when I put it on before my run, it didn’t really make a difference.

Starting out, I did not feel good. I tried not to let it get in my head and around 5 miles I started to feel more like myself. I was running down the Mt. Vernon Trail and by this point I made it to Roosevelt Island and had the bright idea of trying to run some trails on the island. BAD IDEA. There was still so much ice/snow in the back trails and it took me FOREVER to make the loop because of all the stumbling on the icy/melty snow. In the spots where the snow melted away there was so much mud I was slipping all over the place. Trust me, after one loop of this mess I was done and high tailed it back onto Mt. Vernon to cross into the city and give the canal a try.

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Any time I stopped (and I stopped a few times to stretch/eat) – my shoulder ached. I have NO IDEA why and what the hell I did but at least it didn’t hurt while I was running.

The tow path was a bit better, and only a few icy spots. It was nice running on the soft, flat trail for a bit but I was definitely starting to feel fatigued by 16 miles.  I reallllyyy had to talk myself through the last 2 miles of my run but I felt so amazing once it was done. I decided to walk for a good bit when I was done the 20 miles and I’m super happy I did. It helped flush some of the building soreness out of my legs and by the time I got back to my apartment I wasn’t feeling too bad.

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After icing, stretching, rolling and showering, I really didn’t do anything for the rest of the day. I kept my feet up and hung out on the couch until Dave got home. I started feeling really fatigued in the evening so I called it an early night after one Guinness and went to bed around 9:30.

20 mile run – 2:48:52, 8:26 min/mile pace
1.4 mile cool down walk – 26:24 minutes

Saturday, March 18: Long run numero 2 day! I woke up feeling pretty sore in my calves/achilles. It took me a few steps getting out of bed to really stretch out, and I waited a bit before heading out the door so I could make sure I was warmed up. My shoulder wasn’t really bothering me as much, so one plus!

It was a really nice morning – a bit warmer than it’s been the past week. I started out veryyyy slow and I could feel the fatigue in my quads/hips, and the tightness in my calves. There was no real pain so I kept trucking along, and I actually started to feel better as I went. Before I started, I thought I was only going to make it 3 miles, but then 3 miles turned into 6.

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I stopped to use the bathroom around 6 miles and thought about calling it quits, but I made myself head out the door for one more mile, and it turned into 3! I felt really proud of myself for getting 9 miles in and walked to Starbucks when I was done for a delicious coffee.

The rest of my day went okay. I stretched, iced and showered and headed to work to help out for a few hours. Walking around the store helped keep my legs loosened up, and as much as I didn’t want to go in, I think it helped me a bit because the rest of my evening was spent sitting.

9 road miles: first 6.2 miles in 52:56, 8:32 min/mile pace.  2.8 miles in 24:11, 8:35 min/mile pace.

Sunday, March 19: I woke up this morning not really feeling too sore, but not actually feeling like getting outside for my run. I walked to Starbucks instead and grabbed a coffee and did a little bit of planning before work instead. Ragnar is right around the corner so I’m frantically making lists for packing and what needs to get done before we leave.

Work ended. up being CRAZY today. It was absolutely non-stop. No time to eat, no time to drink…almost no time to breathe! My throat got so dry by the end of the shift, I pretty much gulped down my entire Nalgene to try and feel better. I was starting to get light headed, which happens to me often, but this was certainly from the lack of food and water.

Considering how busy it was at work I had no desire to go out for a run. I cooked up some gluten free pasta and ate two bowls when I got home and then had a few gluten-free (essentially Oreos) cookies.

By the time I finally felt well enough to attempt to run it was dark out, so to the treadmill I went. It was actually a pretty good run. I went around 8:00 min/mile pace and listened to the playlist I’ve been putting together for Ragnar and it got me super pumped up. Other than a little bit of calf tightness, the run felt really easy. I was actually shocked when I checked my Whoop monitor and it said this run was a higher strain than usual. It could be because of the stressful day and long miles this weekend…idk. But I iced up after and will be rolling out my calves as well.

5.5 miles on the treadmill – 43:28 minutes, 7:54 min/mile pace

TOTAL WEEKLY MILEAGE: 51 MILES

NOTES ON THE WEEK: I’m okay with how this week went down. I skipped out on a few miles because of not feeling great, but I’m not worried about it. I got my bulk long runs in and I’m proud of myself for pushing through this weekend.  Running 20 miles, then 9 miles, and then 5.5 miles is something I used to think I was incapable of, but I’m learning my body can do so much more when I listen to it and believe in myself.

With Ragnar this upcoming week, I will probably take it very easy leading up to the event. I don’t really care if I don’t hit as high mileage as my training plan wants me to – I’m only concerned on performing at Ragnar and having a great time. So lots of stretching for the calves/achilles until the race and then we’ll take it from there!

As of tonight, my shoulder pain is virtually gone. I don’t know why it came on so suddenly or what caused it. I’m just happy it’s subsiding. I don’t want to blame it on lyme because I honestly can’t see how it’s related, since the pain didn’t feel like that arthritis sort of ache I get in my knees/wrists/other joints.  Let’s just hope it keeps going away and never comes back!