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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Emptiness

Change is confusing.

There’s a sense of loss throbbing deep within me.  It’s an indescribable darkness pulsing, growing.  The problem is not I feel sadness.  The problem is I don’t feel anything at all.  I am empty.

Lately, I’ve been losing myself in music.  Music is powerful.  It has the power to transform my mind and the power to transport me to past moments good and bad.  One song takes me back to hot summer nights in high school, speeding home as I race curfew, windows down to blow my hair up into a wild dance around me.  Another reminds me of a slow, cold winter day at work, chatting idly with a friend as we watch the sun sparkling off the melting snow on the sidewalk.  And another takes me to sitting in my car alone in the driveway, watching the windows fog up around me as condensation runs down the glass like falling tears.  The memories tug me this way and that, but the music fills me.  It fills the empty voids and I am sated.

Maybe the emptiness is because I don’t believe in myself.  It’s hard to believe I can be a strong runner again when I literally had to pull myself out of bed yesterday because my entire body ached like never before.  I feel old.  It’s days like this I wish most for some sort of answer as to why my body has turned on me.

I’ve always wanted to inspire.  To catch people before they fall down the same paths I have found myself stumbling along.  Lifting people up makes me happier than running, biking, hiking, or writing combined.  Helping someone feel whole again and seeing a smile on their face makes me feel not so broken.

Sometimes I forget it’s okay to feel.

We are all storytellers, and I often overlook this.  It’s astonishing to me when people have opened up so willingly with me, telling me their fascinating stories and I wish I could be just like them.  But I am ashamed of my story.  I am not yet brave enough.  Growing up I did not learn how to be vulnerable or deal with emotions.  I used running to deal with every problem I encountered.

So, I’ll keep on carrying on.  The emptiness will pass whether I find my answers or not, I’m sure of it.  I’m writing again and cautiously running, trying to [frantically] prepare for my August Ragnar Relay.

The emptiness may be there and I acknowledge it.  But if it thinks it’s going to win it’s sadly mistaken.

 

© Allison Donaghy 2016 All Rights Reserved

An update of sorts.

As always, it’s been hard for me to put my thoughts into words.  I’ve been mulling over a post for days (WEEKS) but I can’t really find a focus.  It’s probably because I’ve felt so unfocused lately.  Every day I feel like I’m walking through a thick fog, just searching for some clarity.

Colorado was wonderful.  Rocky Mountain State Park is such a beautiful place and it was so easy to let go there.  I didn’t worry about my stress fracture, or running, or my health.  Every morning Erin and I woke up to hike a new trail and had one priority: enjoy nature. The sun was still low in the sky when we started our hikes but the mornings were still full of soft light and delicate silence.  I loved hearing the dirt trail crunch beneath my hiking boots and I loved how the mountains rose up all around us, cradling us in their valley.  Everything seemed so alive.

I’ve been home now for over a week.  If I had a choice I’d still be out in the mountains but home and work were calling.  I’ve started to incorporate runs again in my training but I’m constantly worried about the pain coming back.  With every ache I fear it is the stress fracture returning even though I gave it more than enough time to heal.  I worry about my bones and not absorbing enough calcium and vitamin D.  I worry my bones are soft and weak and as soon as I really start training again I will be broken.  I am so exhausted with being broken.  And the worst part is not letting myself down, it’s letting everyone else down believing in me.

As I was rowing on the erg this evening I realized I will never be fast again.  I row.  I bike.  I elliptical.  I do all these things to try and keep myself in some inkling of running shape, but when it comes down to it they’ll never turn me back into the runner I once was.  Sure, I can get into good shape and be competitive, but I don’t believe I will ever be able to train at a high caliber again and be fast in the shorter 5k, 10k distances.  I’m not sure of the runner I’m going to turn into once these injuries and health issues are settled, and even though I’m resigned to the fact I may be a mediocre runner for the rest of my life, I’m not giving up on myself.  I’m willing to see what type of runner I morph into.  The longer distances are calling my name.

I think that’s it for now.  I want to start writing here more but I keep getting in the way of myself.  Ideally, I would love to use this blog as a place I can just spit out ideas and thoughts I have during the day but I don’t trust myself enough to do so.  I won’t lie – I’m still petrified of sharing my thoughts and feelings and posting inconsistently is my way of taking baby steps.

I have finally started working on my piece again so that’s exciting.  Before I ended up taking such a long break I had the goal of finishing this summer but now it’s already the end of June and I’m not so sure.  I’ve been so wrapped up in my injury, my health, freelance writing and working at the running store I’ve forgotten about myself and personal goals.  So I’m hoping to get back into the habit of working on it in the morning and justttttt maybe I’ll share a few excerpts.

One of these days I’m going to spit out all these words in my head and share them freely.  But today is not that day.

 

© Allison Donaghy 2016 All Rights Reserved

Still Fighting.

“For those days we felt like a mistake,
Those times when love’s what you hate,
Somehow we keep marching on.”

I won’t lie – I’ve been struggling lately.  This post has been floating in and out of my mind for weeks, and the words are still slipping through my fingers.  I’m not quite sure how to articulate how I feel and it’s hard to admit to feeling down.  It’s why I’ve been so quiet lately.  For me, depression always seems to be lurking right around the corner, waiting patiently to strike when I’m already down.  And I am so sick of it.

When the stress fracture first hit I was so sure I would be able to get through it without sinking into darkness.  I was positive I would come out of it physically stronger from the strengthening and cross training I promised to do.  And while I still think I’m going to come out of this stronger it’s for a completely different reason than my physical fitness.  I wouldn’t say I’m blooming (like I stated in my this post) but I’m definitely not crumbling and withering up from all life is throwing my way.  I’m marching on.

I think one of the hardest parts about being in my boot is work.  I love going to work and working with people, but since being put in the boot I’ve had a few choice interactions.  It is as if my boot has taken away my credibility to these individuals, and people never seize to stop amazing me with the hurtful things they say.

Here are some of my favorite replies from a simple, “Can I help you today?”

“I don’t know, can you?” *eyes boot suspiciously*
-“Are you sure I should take your advice? You have a busted leg.”
-“Well that depends.  Did you hurt your leg using what you sell here?”

What makes me most bitter is the automatic judging these people do as soon as they see me.  They don’t know one thing about me, yet here they are making a million assumptions about me and my injury.  They don’t know I’m sick or I’ve been running for 16 years and know a thing or two about the sport.  And by the time they finally ask what happened I don’t want to talk about it because I don’t even know what to say anymore.

Why do I have this stress fracture?  Is it because of poor nutrition?  Does it tie in with all the other health issues I’ve been having lately? Is it from my osteopenia? When people assume my injury is from running too much I’m hesitant to agree because I wasn’t overtraining.  I feel like I’m cursed from choices my old self made.

Lately, my life seems bleak and boring.  I try and cross train most days, switching it up between cycling, rowing and the elliptical.  I watch a lot of TV instead of write.  And I eat a lot of crap instead of nutritious foods.  I’m stressed beyond belief with the constant barrage of medical issues and tests, and I feel like I’m just hanging by a thread here.

I’m tired of being judged but I know this is not something in my control.  I’m tired of letting others’ judgements control me and influence my life in negative ways.  I want to break free and I feel like I am so close but I’m still searching for the key to this cage I’ve been locked in for so long.

“There’s so many wars we fought,
There’s so many things we’re not,
But with what we have,
I promise you that
We’re marching on.”

I am not my injury.
I am not my sickness.
I am not a failure.

I am a fighter.  And I will figure this out.

(Quotes from OneRepublic – Marchin On)

© Allison Donaghy 2016 All Rights Reserved

Hi. Titles are the worst.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been writing.  Blessed as a lefty, growing up I always had a metallic sheen smeared all over the outside of my hand from scribbling furiously in some notebook with a pencil.  I told everyone I was going to be a writer when I grew up and adults always smiled encouragingly at me. I loved putting sentences together, watching the words unravel and then swirl back together in my head until they hit the perfect cadence.  This, at least, has never changed for me.

While writing stories comes easy to me, telling them is harder.  Maybe it is because of the subject matter (I write nonfiction, mostly about running and other less impressive life struggles), but when it comes time to tell my story now, I freeze.  I hate feeling vulnerable and I’ve never been one to share my feelings openly.  I can pretend to be strong when I’m not, and I can pretend to be happy, even when my entire soul aches with a hollow emptiness.  And this is why storytelling is so important to me.  Because my words can show what I’ll never be able to say.

So putting the wishy-washyness aside, I’m starting this blog for a number of reasons.  One – because I would like to write more about my running experience, and share the trials and tribulations of my training.  Two, because maintaining a blog will help me stay in a creative mainframe – something I lost when I came to DC, but have been working really hard to get back since the beginning of this year.  And three – because I hope by sharing my experiences I can help inspire and teach others from both my successes and mistakes.

I guess we’ll see what comes of this.  In the future I’d like to share some of my personal writing as well as get more into depth about my running goals for the future (need to get over this pesky stress fracture first).  Time will tell if this blog just putters out or if it will take us for the long ride.  Just taking it day by day for now.  I trust it will find its direction soon enough.