What I learned from a Runcation

 Runcation: noun. A vacation centered around running. 

 

At least, that’s usually what it means. In my case, however, runcation has taken on a different meaning.

Runcation: noun. A mandatory break from running instituted by medical professionals.

 

It’s been about 7 months since I have run consistently and in that time frame I have only run a handful of times. I used to run everyday, or at the very least 6 out of 7 days a week. I was a distance runner, my short runs consisted of 5-7 milers with my long runs being anywhere between 13-20 miles. Running was my time to be free, my time to be happy, my time to just be alone and process the world and life surrounding me. Running brought me into this amazing community of people that I never knew existed before I dared to start considering myself a “runner.” For over 3 years I worked up my goals: a 5k, 10k, 10 miler, half marathon and finally, conquering the full 26.2 mile marathon. I crushed it. I fell deeper in love with a sport that I had once despised and tried to get out of at every opportunity in PE during high school, it was ironic to me how I could have gone from hating something so much to cherishing it, having my life revolve around it and feeling sort of confident doing it.

I ran, a lot. I ran through rain, snow, unbearable heat, humidity, bad runs, good runs, birthdays, family dinners, nights out with friends, early mornings, injuries (and there were a lot of them), pain, hunger, tears, blood, astonishment from others, overexertion, concerns, and even through my own common sense trying to scream loudly enough to get me to hear it.

Thinking back on it, maybe through isn’t the right word, maybe it should be from. Maybe I was running from all that. They say sometimes the only way out of the storm is through it, I guess in this case that was kind of the truth.

 

See, the thing is that the running wasn’t the primary problem. Running just exacerbated the problem in a lot of ways, but despite what everyone else has said to me, I think running also helped me accept the problem quicker than I would’ve otherwise. Most of the proponents of my “runcation” can’t understand that, they see the running as part of the problem, the disorder, and the belief that you can love it that much a distortion. I think that’s a lot of the reason I have a hard time fully believing them. But I can agree to disagree on that, because despite disagreeing with them on it in it’s entirety, they do have a point; in some ways the running became an obsession, an obligation, a chore and a compulsion. And not just running either, exercising in general.

After the medical effects got entirely too severe to continue to ignore, after passing out daily for almost 2 weeks straight and having such severe chest pain most days I thought I was having a heart attack I knew I had to end it. The moment I had to jump out of an airplane for the first time was nothing compared to the fear I had when I set foot in my doctors office that afternoon. Ultimately the words came out, the questions were posed and a plan was established. My runcation was enacted with a two word diagnosis:

 

Eating Disorder.

 

See, the running wasn’t the only issue. The running perhaps would have never been an issue if there wasn’t a bigger problem lurking underneath it. Masking all the “strength” and “endurance” was a demon inside myself one who progressively restricted food further and further. At first it was just meat or just pasta then whole groups of foods were out: protein, sugars, fats, carbohydrates, fruits, until just one food remained and until a day consisted of 200 calories. No more. Ever. If I ran 15 miles on top of that, it didn’t matter. 200 calories, the same vegetable; Every. Single. Day.

 

I ended up starting treatment, being too severely ill for it and being transferred to an inpatient facility prior to being sent for residential care and to somehow regain “normalcy” with my eating habits. To say I was “onboard” with this whole process would probably be the biggest overstatement of my life. I was compliant but, as my treatment team often described it “extraordinarily ambivalent” toward the notion of committing to recovery.
For the 3 months I lived in Wisconsin. A new state, new treatment center, new “normal” and in all honesty, I learned a lot. Exercise was off the table indefinitely aside from a turtle-speed walk around the hospital campus once a day with supervision and my set diet and meals were quickly replaced by supplements and more substantial diet than anything I had done in years. After I got back home treatment continued, I am in no way “recovered”; I am not even sure recovered is a true state of being for someone with an eating disorder. I feel like being in a solid state of recovery is possible but I am not sure that these thoughts, feelings or other voice in my head will ever truly go away. Heck, some days I am not even sure staying in some sort of recovery is possible. Either way, there is still a lot of work to do.

 

Despite my ongoing war with myself I have come to realize that there has been some, and I repeat some (but not all) good that has come from the mandatory runcation:

  1. I was able to heal enough to be permitted to finally have my foot surgery (which not only has gotten me out of perpetual pain- or will eventually do that- but also will hopefully allow me to run more comfortably once I am able to do that).
  2. When you don’t run during all of your free hours, you get to see your friends more
  3. I have found new hobbies that I also enjoy doing and had time to plan my best friend’s bridal shower and bachelorette party
  4. There’s more to life than running, racing, sneakers, time trials, fartleks, and beating your own PRs
  5. I don’t have to run dozens of miles a week to be a Runner, to be “healthy” or to be fit (I’m still working on continuously believing this one but today I sorta can believe it)
  6. It’s nice to sleep in sometimes. It’s also nice to stay up late sometimes too and not worry about the early morning gym wake up call.
  7. Not running all the time makes the races I can do feel more special (not that I am allowed to sign up for anymore since my little 20 mile running escapade in February…)
  8. Running doesn’t have to kill me.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I still want to run. I want to do marathons, I want to sit in a van with random strangers and relay race 200 miles through random cities, I want to race, I want to PR, but I have kind of come to realize that sometimes the thing you think is helping you hold on to everything you have, might actually be drowning you further- at least in this case it was.

I miss it. Every. Single. Day. When I go on walks my body instinctively gears up to shorten my stride and pick up the pace, I envy the other runners I see out there on my trails, my sidewalk, and posting their race sign-ups and finish times but I know that I’m not ready to go back quite yet. Not to the extent I was. I am still addicted (remember the aforementioned 20 miler…) still using it to not only be a fun hobby but also because it has the added benefit of burning those pesky calories I fear so much and to combat the weight gain I hate that the treatment team has forced on me.

I know they’re right. I’m not ready. It will cause a relapse. Heck, I’ve nearly relapsed many many times without running having to do anything, it’s too slippery of a slope and I don’t want to go back to the days when I couldn’t stay awake for more than 2 hours, couldn’t remember anything, cried on the floor because I was hungry but couldn’t pick myself up after passing out because I feared the kitchen so much and because I wouldn’t let myself “break the rules”. My life had to stop for over 3 months because things were so bad I needed 24/7 care by trained professionals.

So for now, I guess I’ll stay on my runcation. The definition of this runcation is not one I wish to be using but I’ve succumbed to the fact that it’s the one that must be used…for now, at least until I can get back to the real runcations.

 

 

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Dear Running

I miss you.

I miss lacing up my sneakers,

I miss the ache in my legs,

I miss the heaviness in my step at the start, the effortless sensation once I warm up,

I miss the elusive search for runner’s high,

I miss the trails,

I miss the pavement,

I miss fartleks,

I miss watching non-runners react to the word fartlek,

I miss the hills,

I miss the feel of sweaty, hard worked, drenched drifit tanks,

I miss the bad runs,

I miss the really really good runs,

I miss getting my headphones tangled,

I miss getting mad at my music selection,

I miss inspiring others,

I miss waking up long before dawn to start running,

I miss finishing after the sun comes up,

I miss making people’s jaws drop when I tell them how far I run,

I miss compression sleeves after long runs,

I miss getting faster,

I miss cross-training,

I miss waving to other runners,

I miss my old running routes,

I miss the blisters,

I miss racing,

I miss PRs,

I miss the alone time,

But most of all,

I miss being a Runner.

Defeat

Trigger Warning: Eating Disorders and Disordered Eating

I can’t run like I used to. I’m not strong enough. My head starts pounding my body shaking like when you have the flu and your whole self feels like jello. My legs begin to buckle after just a few miles. I know it’s because I eat less than 200-300 calories right now. I can’t even talk myself into 500 like I used to on distance days. I know it’s because there is 0 carbs in those calories but I can’t I physically can’t grab the food I need. I know this happens when you drop almost 30 pounds in less than 2 months but still.
I just want to run my list of reasons to get help were:

1. So I can run better again 

2. To not die.

In that order. Running is so much to me and helps me so much in other ways and I am losing it. The marathons are approaching and I am losing grasp of them day by day. 

I wish someone understood someone could make me do this, force feed me, anything. I wish I could call my mom but idk, I’ve been so burdensome lately since she found ou that I don’t want to stress her out more (& I’m scared to be lectured). I just don’t know what to do so I am sitting on a bench on the side of the trail, crying. And watching other runners, too weak to get up and run home, too dizzy to get up and walk. 

I hate myself for this. 

 Ps. Please ignore how fat I look here, I had my hydration belt on and all my trail gear with me. 

National Running Day!!

It’s here, it’s here, it’s here!!! National Running Day!

A day for runners everywhere to have a reason to run- oh wait, we run even when we don’t have a reason! But today is even more of a reason to run and to celebrate, encourage, welcome new runners, and challenge yourself as an athlete.

Today I precisely ran 0.0 miles. Yup, nothing. It is killing me. On National Running Day I am in a cast and banned from running. To make matters worse, tomorrow I am going back to the podiatrist to *cross your fingers* hopefully get out of the cast which really just means the appointment is a mere 22 hours away and therefore National Running Day is just taunting me. Evil.

But I have TONS of running planned as soon as I am out of this boot and back in my sneakers where I belong. Well, technically back in both my sneakers- I’m wearing the left one currently. Fall marathon plans are amping up and I need to whip my bum back into 20 milers in order to get some PRs this fall and some cool medals for my wall! Chicago, Marine Corps, Best Damn Race (a smaller race organization in FL), Dopey Challenge (at Disney) are all coming up between October and early January. I also wanna throw a few November 1/2s in there too. Of course, all that is contingent on this foot of mine.

Anyway back to National Running Day, since I can’t run today I am going to get as close as possible to running: aqua jogging. It just sounds awkward. Actually, I am sure it looks awkward too but I need to exercise and I need to do something other than stare at my foot and wait for the next 22 hours to pass to hopefully be cleared to run so with that I am off, off to aqua jog. And do laps- I am training for a triathlon too (plus, that looks less awkward haha).

So Happy Running Day Runners everywhere. Run a mile for me or even just a minute depending on your skill. Remember it doesn’t matter how fast, long or hard you go what matters is that you go out and run!

PS. Tomorrow if I am out of this boot, I am totally making up for not being able to run today.

Time to Tri

Last Wednesday I was sanctioned to a month of being in an air cast for my chronically broken sesamoid bone and the sesamoiditis that it is causing. My doctor wanted to put it in a hard cast and immobilize fully but I promised that I would only take the cast off when I was (a) sleeping or (b) showering and that exercise will consist of upper body weights, swimming and biking (but no standing on the bike while riding).

To me, this seemed like certifiable torture. I don’t like biking because it hurts my bum and I don’t like swimming because I always feel uncomfortable in a bathing suit and I am just not efficient enough in my freestyle stroke to be good at it.

Last Friday I went to my gym, OrangeTheory and my trainer was AMAZING about letting me know how we would adjust the class schedule so I could still come to class. In case you don’t know what OTF is, you go take a class with x number of other people (no more than 24 usually), alternating between the treadmill, ergs (rowers), and a weight room (with med balls, dumbbells, benches, bosu balls, SBT bands, etc). So the predesigned schedule doesn’t necessarily work when you can’t do lower body, rowing (my fave!) or running (my ultimate fave!).

But while I HATE the bike, I decided to embrace it and swimming. And now I have set my sights on something I would never do: the Triathlon!!!

And, I am excited about it! I am starting to get used to the bum soreness after biking and swimming I am just practicing getting better. I am going to get a swim coach at least for a few lessons to work on my efficiency with freestyle strokes and breathing and get better at that. I am a solid swimmer, I’ve just never done it competitively and that’s the part I am most worried about.

Right now, I am aiming for an August triathlon! It’s a sprint tri so it will be a short tri distance and will have a 1/4 mile swim, 10 mile bike and 3.1 mile run. If I feel ready I may go to the full tri distance for this race which is double the distance of all of those (1/2 mile run, 20 mile bike, 6.2 mile run). I don’t have a super snazzy tri bike but this one allows road bikes, which I do have and I think it’ll work well for my first one at least until I decide if I like doing triathlons.

My only concern is changing clothes (?) I am not sure how that works or what but being in a bathing suit and changing clothes is something that makes my skin crawl. I hate thinking about me being at all exposed in front of people. Heck, I hate even being around people but I am just going to try and think of the bigger picture and focus on my goals.

For now, I am going to continue using the bike at OTF during my workout (as if I have a choice), jump back into marathon training once I am freed from the cast monster, and work on my swimming at my pool just doing about 30 minutes of laps every few days. Once I am out of the boot though I am going to take a swim class and try road biking a few miles every week too.

But goodness I miss running. I can’t wait for the trails, pavement and pounding of my feet.

Every Mile is Magnificent

Well, A while ago I posted about entering the lottery for the Chicago Marathon. And the results came out… I’m in. Now, I’m a bit delayed in stating that because well, it was announced last week and while I spent the whole day at work on lottery results day hitting F5 on my computer in anticipation and then actually ran down the hall to tell a friend when the screen finally changed green at 3:14, I still feel a sense of dread associated with it.

Don’t get me wrong, I am beyond excited to go (I even already booked my flight and hotel- which is much more than I usually do for trips 5 months away) but I think my excitement is dulled by fear.

Fear of what? For starters:

1. Last year this race was MY race. I ran flawlessly, made my time goal, felt tremendous afterward, walked around the city the next day, felt so good 2 days later I went for a run, never hit the wall, took in the whole experience and enjoyed the whole thing. So why am I scared? That’s a LOT to live up to and I am a perfectionist.

2. My mom is coming- SOOOOOOOOO Excited because she didn’t get to come last year and this will be the first marathon she sees me run! But, my mom is coming. My mom. My mom who worries about what I do/don’t eat. My mom who doesn’t know about how badly I struggle with food. My mom who will be with me in the hotel, the day before and after and will realize how little I do eat and will comment. My mom, who if I end up getting help for this eating disorder before the race, may or may not be the help I need before the race.

3. Temptation. Chicago has a reputation for good food. I can vouch for it. When I am there I would love to taste a bit of it and enjoy it but it’s so laced with dread, hate and fear that when I am forced to eat, I throw it up and that comes with it a whole other set of fears (what if someone hears? what if I can’t get to the bathroom after the meal? what if I can’t purge it all? what if someone sees me eat? what if they think I am eating too much? what if they comment? what if I get sick? what if I get fatter?).

4. The boot. That’s right, I am in an air cast. I have a “traumatized shattered sesamoid bone” according to my podiatrist (or some combo of those words) and we have been trying everything conservatively for the last 15 months but I still have horrendous bouts of sesamoiditis so I am currently in an air cast and the only thing that kept me from getting a full blown hard cast is that I promised him that I would only take it off when I (a) shower (b) sleep. It’s been 4 days and I am dying to go run. I miss it so much and as much as I hate to say this, I am scared to death of having extra calories in me. The good news is I have been wanting to train for a triathlon so I started swimming in the mornings and my trainer at the gym said I can still come to class (I go to OrangeTheory- look it up it is fabulous) and that we can modify it so I only bike (no standing and pedaling) and do upper body per doctors orders.

So here I am with both of my must do marathons this year. On my way to Marathon Maniac status and I still have so much dread. I know it’s 99.99% due to the eating disorder. My sister’s birthday was yesterday and the restaurant she chose to go to is on the COMPLETELY FRICKIN UNSAFE list and when I found out that’s where she was going, I refused to go. My mom called today because I “seemed off” yesterday. I wonder if she’ll connect the dots, probably not though. Sometimes when these things are right in front of you, you are the most blind to them. I should know I have been convinced I am getting better….in all honesty though, I think I am worse than ever. Hell, I flaked on my own sister. I am contemplating flaking on Mother’s Day tomorrow too.

Anyway, I still remember my goal from my Chicago Lottery post: I am going to try and eat one meal, just one while I am in Chicago.

 

But, I am really not sure I can do this. I am already anxious.

#MCM and #RunWithTheMarines

Signs You’re a Runner: For a while now I’ve been wondering why everyone is always posting pictures with #mcm. I know about Man Crush Monday but I guess it never occurred to me that, THAT acronym didn’t mean Marine Corps Marathon….until today.

This realization only came out because I’ve been stuck in MCM (Marine Corps Marathon) mode for months now, waiting for the lottery to open, entering the lottery and waiting 10 longgg days to get a result on the lottery. And today, was lottery result day!!!

It was like trying to get a 5 year old to wait to open presents on Christmas morning. As SOON as my alarm (the first one) went off I reached over to my phone to check my email- something I NEVER do. I hate email. I think it’s overrated, overused and a nuisance.  But, I broke my rule of refusing to check my email first thing in the morning because, well, it was like Christmas for those of us waiting to hear about the Marathon. Now, there was no guarantee I would hear at 5:17am but I had heard from others that emails start in the middle of the night and continue all day. After a very poor attempt at typing my email address in on my phone and falling asleep at least 2 times, the page loaded with one unread message….I got in to the Marine Corps Marathon!!!!!

My email came at 1:46am!!  I am surprised my neighbors didn’t think I was being murdered I screamed so loud! THE Marine Corps Marathon! The 40th anniversary, I will be there! YES! I’ve never been to DC either so I am looking forward to finally getting to go to DC, better weather, running and an awesome extended weekend vacation! Plus, I come from a family of military folks (from all branches) so I think this race will be a great way to honor them.

MCM I'm In

As I jumped on IG to post a photo and hashtag everything known to man I typed in #mcm and THAT’S when I realized: #MCM = Man Crush Monday (to normal people) not Marine Corps Marathon!! It was like not just the light bulb but the whole dang chandelier went off! So, I tagged with the other MCM tag: #RunWithTheMarines because, well, that’s exactly what I’ll be doing in October!!! And as I waited for a plethora of likes on FB and little hearts on IG I realized, no one is awake at 5:17am sharing stuff on social media, except those of us waiting for the MCM results.

I have had some time today to let the excitement calm a bit (but not by much because I am so unbelieveably excited) and as I went to type this I saw my last (not so happy) post. See, the thing is despite how excited I am about this one of the first things I thought after I screamed with happiness was “oh shit, I’m going to have to eat.” AND because my friends are coming to DC with me, I know I will have to eat, in front of people and it won’t be easy to hide if I don’t like it was in Chicago last year. This is especially hard because I have felt like I am failing at having an ED this week. See, failing at having an ED means I am not doing good enough at restricting and purging- that’s what failing is to me and to any “normal” non-ED person this would be success but for me, it’s failure. Sheer,  utter, failure. On top of that my GI issues are flared up this week because what I have eaten is stuff that is bad for whatever issues my stomach has and everything from the disoriented feeling, joint pain, muscle pain and  severe nausea is back so I feel like I am failing even more.

But, I am doing what I set out to do, run toward recovery. So, I am sitting here, writing this to mostly myself and telling myself that my goal is to have a celebratory meal with my friends after the marathon. Maybe not a big meal, maybe without dessert, maybe it’ll be the same safe foods I have now, but 1 celebratory meal. No purging (and thinking about this is already making me anxious). 1 meal.

I know seeking help would probably help dramatically in being able to reach this goal but right now I still can’t. I’ve been sucked back in and the disorder eating and the voice in my head keeping me in this mode have a death grip on me. It’s like bungee jumping, I jumped toward the stability and safety of the ground (aka recovery) but, just as I almost made it there I flung back up- up toward the ED- where I started, now every time I go drop down again it seems like I am getting a bit closer to the safety of recovery and a bit farther from the ED but I am still on the bungee cord and oscillating between bounces hoping the ED doesn’t pull me back up to where I started before the bouncing ceases and I can get off and settle on solid ground. Safe, solid ground.

But, back to the marathon: Words cannot express how thrilled I am, this was the IT marathon for me this year, the one I wanted to run more than any of the others and I am astonished that I was lucky enough to get in my first year entering the lottery! I cannot wait to run, I am excited to train again and post runfies on IG with the #RunWithTheMarines (and maybe #MCM too).

Countdown: T- 7 months (exactly!) 10-25-15 will be here soon!