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

 

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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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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!

 

 

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.

 

Weekly Recap: April 3 – April 9

(I wanted to add photos but something is wrong with my phone and I can’t get them off onto my computer!!!)

It’s been awhile! I know I haven’t done a weekly update in a while – I have been completely OUT OF TIME. I’m not going to lie, I’ve been pretty stressed out and not been feeling the greatest, so this plays into my silence. But here I am now, and I wish I had this lovely update to give you about how great things are going, but I’m not going to sugarcoat things – I’m hurting. I’ve been struggling with some peroneal tendonitis since Ragnar and I finally doomed myself in last week with my long run.

Taking some time off to help the inflammation go down and hopefully I’ll be running by Friday for my long run. Lot’s of icing, stretching and rolling on the schedule, along with any pain-free cross training.

Monday, April 3: I ran a lot earlier in the morning because of a doctor appointment I had later. The weather was pretty nice – it’s finally spring – and I was really enjoying myself EXCEPT for my ankle. I wouldn’t call it pain I was feeling, but something definitely didn’t feel right. Every step my ankle felt weak and like the little bones in my foot were moving or something. I know it doesn’t make sense, but that’s what it felt like. I felt like my foot needed a good crack to make sure everything was in place.

Other than the weird ankle/foot sensations, the run was great. I ran along the Mt. Vernon Trail and went about 7 miles. My legs felt pretty fresh considering the week before was a recovery week and mileage was super low.

7 road miles – 7:55 min/mile pace

Tuesday, April 4: Decided to take a rest day because of ANOTHER doctor appointment. My lyme doctor is about 45 minutes from where I live so by the time I drive out there, have the appointment and drive back, my morning is pretty much shot. I was feeling the tightness in my peroneal this morning so I decided the rest would be my best bet.

Doctor appointment went fine – had more bloodwork done. When I got home I had a little bit of time before work so I decided to go for a nice walk instead. I walked along the Potomac for 2.3 miles just listening to music and thinking things through. Definitely needed it before work.

Rest Day
2.3 mile walk

Wednesday, April 5: Workout day! I wasn’t as excited about my tempo workout as I usually am because of the ankle pain. I decided to suck it up and hit up the treadmill anyways though, thinking the tendon would loosen up as I ran.

Once I got going on the treadmill though and started pumping some jams I felt okay. The peroneal was definitely tight and ached for most of the run, but the pain was manageable. I ended up being able to complete my entire workout – 7 X 5 min repeats with 1 min recovery in between – with my speed portions being between 6:30-6:05 min/mile pace. I did my cool down outside and ended the day with over 10 miles.

15 min. w.u., 7X5 min up-tempo, 1 min recovery in-between – 8.3 miles, 6:53 min/mile
2.1 mile c.d. – 18:09 mins, 8:28 min/mile pace

Thursday, April 6: ANOTHER rest day. I didn’t intend on resting today, but once I got home from work I couldn’t get myself to go and cross train like I was supposed to. I definitely didn’t want to run because of my ankle and I was trying to get ready for the next day’s long run, but I couldn’t get my butt onto my bike. So I ended up laying on my couch not doing anything. Womp wompppppp.

Rest Day

Friday, April 7: LONG RUN. What an adventure this run ended up turning into once out on the trail. The day before it POURED and we had storms and crazy wind, and it really messed up the trail. When I was driving out to Great Falls Park, I noticed how swollen the Potomac was and I knew the trail was going to be an epic mess. The wind was still very bad and I started getting nervous about falling tree branches and such, but I forced myself to keep driving.

My ankle was pretty sore this morning, even though I took Thursday off. When I first started running my ankle almost gave out with my first step, and I knew it probably wasn’t a good omen. Once I got going on the trail and relaxed, the pain pretty much disappeared.

The trail was flooded in a lot of places and the thick mud made me turn my ankle a few times, unfortunately. There were A LOT of huge trees down and it made me so paranoid to have to run off the trail and around. For once, I forgot to spray myself with bug spray before I started and all I could think about were ticks! Every time I had to jump off trail or a branch brushed up against my side I stopped and checked myself for freaking ticks. So as you can imagine, I stopped a lot on this run.

I wasn’t able to make it out as far as I wanted on the heritage trail because of fallen trees so I turned back early and ran some trails in Great Falls I’ve never went out on before. They were so nice and even though I was tired as the miles racked up, I was having a freaking blast out there. I think this is the first run where my nutrition and hydration were on point. I was eating every 40 minutes and drinking my tailwind from my hydration vest and I actually felt pretty good.

By the time I was done with 20 miles I was definitely tired, but honestly, if I had to go further I knew I could. This was a good feeling to have, especially struggling with the tendonitis. I’ve never done two 20 mile runs (and a 36 mile ragnar) in one training cycle, so to finish this run up made me feel really good and confident.

As soon as I got home I stretched and iced my ankle and it felt pretty good. It wasn’t until I tried to get up from the couch a few hours later I realized how much pain my peroneal was in. Dave and I decided to walk to Crystal City to see a friend at the 5k Fridays and during the 1 mile walk I felt my peroneal loosen up again. Honestly, I thought I would be okay for my 10 miler the next day.

20.1 trail miles – 9:12 min/mile pace

Saturday, April 8: I woke up early for an event I was holding at the store, and immediately I knew I was in trouble. I woke up several times during the night and every time I moved around I could feel the pain in my peroneal. When I got out of bed the pain walking was intense, and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to run. It immediately put me into a pisser.

It didn’t help when I went to drive to my event that my car wouldn’t start. I felt like everything was going wrong for me and immediately I felt myself shift into a negative attitude about everything. I was upset about my car, upset about going to work on my day off (even though I had volunteered) and upset my “training was going to shit.” It’s absolutely incredible what missing a run can do to someone who is used to running all the time.

After the event I went home and cleaned up around the apartment before getting a new battery in my car. I had plans that evening to go out with friends to the pub, but immediately I cancelled. I felt myself retreating into that dark place where I didn’t want to see or be near anyone. I was sure I ruined myself for my 50k I’ve been training forever for and I was so mad at myself.

Later in the afternoon I took myself to a massage appointment with great hopes it would be a fix-all. I told her about the tendonitis and she focused on that ankle for a lot of the appointment and HOLY CRAP DID IT HURT. I feel like my ankle is still a little bruised from her digging in there. But I was able to walk normally when I stood up after the appointment, and the pain was cut by about 70%. As much as I wanted to push it and try and run, I told myself no and rested on the couch for the rest of the evening.

I iced a lot, cooked up some veggie chili, and watched some documentaries until it was time for bed. I was still feeling pretty mad at myself about the tendonitis and for letting it affect my entire day, but I took some Advil, put on some anti-inflammatory cream and went to bed.

Sunday, April 9: I woke up ready to be in a better mood. I made myself coffee, relaxed and enjoyed myself before I had to go into work. Sometimes, I feel like it’s okay to have one of those days where you kinda wallow and feel angry at the world (as long as you don’t let it consume you and continue for a long time). What I felt Saturday was completely normal. It was frustration, anger, and sadness about my injury. And it’s ok. But I was ready to leave it behind.

I KNOW you can’t lose fitness by taking 1-2 weeks off. When people come to me for running advice, especially if they’re hurting with an injury, I preach this all. the. time., but it’s hard to take your own advice.

I believe in myself. I reminded myself to stop comparing my training to anybody else’s, because every person is different. I reminded myself I was able to complete both marathons I’ve done in the past off less than 30 mile/week mileage. I reminded myself just how strong I am physically and mentally – and I felt happy.

It was a beautiful day so I decided to ride my bike to work. It’s been awhile since I’ve gotten in the saddle and I had so much fun riding to the store. It’s less than 3 miles so it was super quick, but it was enough to get those endorphins flowing. Work ended up being so busy I didn’t even have time to think about my tendonitis because I was running all over the place like a crazy person – definitely my workout for the day.

After I rode home I immediately ate dinner because I was unable to eat all day at work. Now that the days are longer, there was still some sunlight after I finished, so dave and I went for a little walk. We ended at the grocery store so I could pick up a few things for the week and when we got back to the apartment, I went down to the gym to see if any cross training didn’t hurt. I rowed for about 10 minutes (and felt great) but because there were a few twinges in the ankle I decided to stop. I hopped on the elliptical and that wasn’t great so I left and went back to the apartment to ice, roll and stretch.

WEEKLY MILEAGE: 37.5 Miles

THOUGHTS ON THE WEEK: Obviously not the mileage I wanted to hit this week. I’m about 13-14 miles short of what I wanted, but it’s okay. I’m in the final stretch here, and it’s about making it to the start line, not pushing myself through painful miles. I’m happy I got the 20 miler in even though I know I would have felt a little more confident having the 10 miler the day after as well. But I’ve already done that once in my training and I’ve only gotten stronger since then, so I think all will be okay.

I’m going to keep stretching, icing and rolling and hopefully I’ll be okay for 15 miles this Friday and maybe 7 or so on Saturday. I’m not going to push or force anything. Maybe this injury is an opportunity for me to get back into cross training/strengthening so I can better incorporate it into my 57 miler training this summer. It’s going to be so important!

I picked up some anti-inflammatory juices to try this week as well and I’m going to try and really clean up my diet. I’ve been eating a lot of processed crap and it’s not doing me any favors.

Here we go! IT’S THE FINAL COUNT DOWNNNNNNNN.