April 19, 2014
Occupation: Assistant Store Manager atlululemon athletica
Residence: Chicago, IL
Time since last race: 1 year, 6 months
Conditions: 70’s, sunny and stunning
Official time: 03:51:53
Sterile and white. Questions, needles, more questions. Resigned and tired.
Peer into my brain, let me show you the thoughts:
“I am over training.”
“I am out of shape.”
“I am old.”
“I am not eating right.”
“I am not doing enough yoga.”
“I don’t sleep enough.”
“I need more rest.”
“What about my goals?”
“I need more protein.”
“I need less protein.”
“F*ck! What is wrong with me?!”
On and on and on this dialogue in my head went as I tweaked this and managed that for nine month’s time. From August 2012 to May 2013 I made it through each day with higher than normal levels of fatigue, joint pain in my hips and shoulders, extra long recovery times from workouts that once used to be easy, and noticeably more emotional lows. A constant stream of above statements flowing through my head, followed by another action to offset that day’s self-diagnosis.
In October 2012 there was flat-line exhaustion before, during and after #18, the Indianapolis Marathon.
“Time off will certainly help. I must be over-training.”
Time did not heal all wounds, I still felt the same come Spring 2013. After what should not have been a grueling 20-mile bike ride in late May, I sat on the couch and cried. I told H something was not right. I got a blood test. I have Lyme Disease.
Yes, I have Lyme Disease.
The last (miserable) run I went on in May 2013, right before the diagnosis.
What followed was the first full breath I had taken in a year. I mean, I really breathed fully, right into my gut and felt the diagnosis with full satisfaction.
Something was wrong and I knew it. It explained so much about the way I had been feeling over the last year!
WhowhatwhenwhereWHY did this happen? It was likely the perfect storm of a weakened immune system due to the self-imposed stresses of working, coaching and training, combined with a camping weekend in Minnesota and a fateful union with stealth tick bite. About one month after the weekend I spent in MN, I ran my personal best half marathon and then physically, it was all down hill after that. The details inconsequential at this point – you can read about exactly how I felt here.
I could not have been more relieved something was “wrong.” That I wasn’t crazy, wasn’t getting old, wasn’t out of shape- all of that internal dialogue was pointless. My Type-A tendencies loved that there could now be a Plan.
But that Plan equaled rest (and some heavy duty antibiotics). Yikes.
Here is where I thank all of my lucky stars and everything in-between that I have H at my side. There was wisdom, guidance and experience to help me realize that it was okay to rest. Hell, it was MORE than okay to take some time off. It was time for me to (re)evaluate what I want in this goal (<– I am learning more and more that revisitations to the things I have chosen to be do-or-die situations for my life is necessary, exciting and scary).
So I have this goal, right? To run 50 Marathons in 50 States. At some point in my lifetime. Not all at once, not in a detailed, patterned order. Just as they present themselves to me throughout my life. But I lost that part – the part about doing marathons when I choose to. I was getting caught up in the pace, the pattern and the unending quest to be better. Better than what? Better than who?And at what cost? Here was my boyfriend – and Lyme Disease – telling me to slow down. So slow down I did.
In the slowing, there was a lot of reflection. There was getting uncomfortable and real. In a very recent past I had attached my self-worth so willingly to a training-racing-training-faux rest-training pattern which let me to become overly concerned with what people would think if I took time off. More internal dialogue:
“How can I be a run coach and not run?”
“Everyone will improve and I’ll get slower.”
“I haven’t not run a marathon since 2005.”
I was starting to let my goals control me and there was pressure, so much pressure. But in this slowing, I realized that I’m the one in control. It’s my timeline, my choice on the pacing. To be conscious of the pace (running, achieving goals, or otherwise) was more about me trying to look good. Or avoid looking bad. I’ve learned that when I act with the outcome of those two intentions, I am inauthentic, uninspiring and frankly – fake. Oh, and tired.
Taking a step back and enjoying every moment of it
Another moment of enlightenment came when I realized that instead of being better, it is okay to just be. Okay to be scared, nervous, stressed, happy, overjoyed, in love. This kind of self-acceptance and self-kindness has been gentle for my soul and wonderful for my progress. It got me back to good health (mentally and physically) and landed me at the starting line in Kentucky, some 18-months after the last 26.2 mile adventure.
During training for Kentucky, I did the miles to do the miles. In case you missed it, 2014 was the coldest winter in a century and H and I took this as a challenge to get out and ‘play’. There were runs where my eyes froze shut, stops inside coffee shops and lots of bourbon. Always the promise of bourbon. I wouldn’t be lying if I said the carrot at the end of many January long runs was a burger from Au Cheval. The miles weren’t pretty but they were there, and when I got to Louisville, I felt ready.
Oh how good it felt to feel good during a marathon! April 19, 2014 was the first time I had really felt the warmth of the sun on my skin since October. I remember jumping up and down, shaking my hands as if I could shove off the months of below-freezing temps and bone-chilling cold with a few flicks of my wrist. Sometimes the marathons I do are a blur, this one was not. It felt so.good. to run, to sweat, to take in that Louisville southern charm. During the 8th mile when the course led us winding through Churchill Downs, I giggled like an idiot and took about 1000 selfies. Miles 12-15 were through a scenic but hilly Iroquois Park and by Baxter and Broadway I was ready to pack my bags and move to Kentucky.
Upon crossing the finish line, never had that medal around my neck felt so good, so earned, so mine.
In this triumphant return, I am on the other side of Lyme Disease with peace in my heart and a greater willingness to let go and let be. Because sometimes, things just have to be.