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Monday, October 27, 2014

One and Done. Race Report

So, this weekend was the weekend I had been waiting for, Ghost Train 100. So much went onto getting to this race...and for me it was so much MORE than a race.

This last year or so has probably been one of the hardest years of my life. Some pretty intense personal stuff, along with assorted other mountains to climb ...all starting shortly before last year's Ghost Train. Last year I signed up for the 100 and unfortunately went in with a health issue that became quite serious during the race. I had to drop at 60 and it was a very scary time for my pacer and family. Much medical investigating later it was found that I had Silent Reflux and something called Runner's Ischemia except I get nauseous and puke instead of what is described in this article(don't read while eating breakfast...just a suggestion) My amazing GI doc told me how to deal with it, so that I could continue running. (once he heard what I did, he said "clearly running less is out of the question." Heh.)

I have done a LOT of personal growth over the last year, as well as focusing on getting as healthy and strong as I could. Not just for this race, but for life. I finally am over a year without Lyme symptoms and off ALL Lyme related meds which is something I have not been able to say for most of my adult life. So coming into this race, it turned into something very personal...I knew I was going to finish this race no matter what. It became clear to me early that I would probably not make the cut off and I didn't care. It wasn't about getting a *finish* or having my name on a list or in a was about doing this for *me*...a coming full circle...of finishing something I started well over a year ago. Of knowing I could FINALLY trust my body, it was healthy and strong...I was going to do this no matter how long it took.

I am going to try and recap this race lap by lap...I want to remember this...I want to look back any time I am feeling down on myself and remember just how strong I am. :)

Pre Race.
I got to the race early as I wanted a good parking spot as my oldest son Jeffrey, crew/volunteer extraordinaire, was with me and I wanted him to have easy access to the car to sleep, etc. As we were having breakfast in the car, my reflux kicked in. I could. not. believe it. It NEVER just *happens*. Instead of getting worried, I just packed some extra tums and knew I would need to be REALLY on top of hydration and eating. Got to hang out and stay warm, then the usual Hello's to all my peeps :) Got to chat with Lou, and see my client/friends Julie and Kathi who were there for their first attempt at 30 miles, along with the other usual suspects...gave the RD Steve a big hug and many other familiar faces that were there for this fabulous race. I was SO happy to see so many people out there, and SO many people with their first Ultra attempt! Best race to do it at, imo :)

Started off all the way in the back as I knew I wanted to go slow. Ended up spending some time alone getting into my groove and chatted with other ultra pals here and there. Fell into a good pace, but definitely knew something was off right away. I could NOT believe this was happening again...same as last year. But, I was not going to let it get to me. I knew I would just need to adjust my strategy, and stay on top of my drinking and eating, and be sure not to take ibuprofin too often.

Still feeling *off* but otherwise pretty good. The weather was amazing, people were so happy and it was great to pass people out and back. I was doing a fairly consistent run/walk at this point, and moving along pretty well. Towards the end of the lap, Mushie came out to greet me and I was SO happy. Mentally, knowing she was there was a huge boost. She ran in with me as we made plans for pacers for the duration of the race. I was eating at EVERY aid station, which I never do, and drinking to thirst. My Tailwind/Tang blend...Mmmm :)

This was a longer stop than I had planned, but change in pacing duties had Dave coming out with me for this lap and he was not ready as he thought he had a night lap :) This gave me a chance to  refill my bladder, grab my headlamp, a sweatshirt and finalize the pacing duties. Mushie was leaving to get her night running stuff and try to get some sleep, and my other pacer Mike was on stand-by for the first night loop. Dave and I took off and had a great time. I cannot tell you how happy I was to be running with him. To do something I love so much with someone I love so much was SO awesome. To be able to share this crazy sport, to let him see first hand what its all about...was so fantastic. (and I don't think I was dreaming when I heard him say HE was going to run it next year...) We had a good lap chatting, doing the run/walk thing and enjoying the afternoon/evening. I was glad it was getting dark on this lap as I wanted him to see the pumpkins, which we did, as well as the luminaries(DAMN there were a lot of them, lol) He was a great pacer, making sure I ate and drank, and doing all the right things :) This would become VERY important later... I got back and washed up and changed into my night running clothes, grabbed my poles and refilled and get ready for the overnight which is usually the part that kills me as I HATE running overnight.

I knew the next 2 laps were going to be the most difficult mentally. This is the lap last year where things went downhill rapidly. I was glad to have Mike as my pacer for this lap as he is SO exuberant and I knew he would talk me through this lap (literally ;) ) He did just that. He kept me going, walking fast so I would keep up a decent pace, reminding me to run when the trail looked good. Made sure I ate and drank, which I did, and we just had a good time. I felt good, aside from feeling a bit tired at this point, but it was ok. The fact that I was STILL eating and drinking was both awesome and amazing as I typically cannot eat/drink past a certain point which is ultimately my undoing at many a race. I was even enjoying myself and the fact I was running at night, and feeling good aside from the usual pains at this point was big. The fact I wasn't a basket case about running at night was HUGE. As an added bonus, we had the company of Steve for a few minutes as he patrolled the course. I got to see him a few times during the race as he was out and about, and it always made me smile. Gotta love the big guy :) It was a huge deal mentally to get through this lap as this is where it ended for me last year, and to go through feeling good was a huge boost. When I made it past that point I knew I would finish.

Mushie joined me for this lap and we spent the first bit chatting away to the point that we hit the Bigl aid station before I knew it! I was shocked we were there already, which she used later as a way to encourage me, reminding me how short it felt. I used that myself in the rest of the laps. This was a tough lap. I was walk/shuffling at this point, and Mushie kept me at a fairly steady pace...I think it was one of my faster laps, lol. We got it done, she knows me SO well that she knows what I am thinking and exactly what to say. I was starting to break down mentally, getting emotional, as I was really feeling the effects of being up and on my feet for so long, and it was starting to show. Hitting the Tevya aid station was brutal as the pavement was excruciating at this point. Unbeknownst to me as I was not thinking clearly, my feet had started to swell and my shoes were too tight. Every step at this point was unbelievably painful, but on pavement it was to the point I thought I might puke from the pain. I did not remedy this until about mile 97...doh. She said all the right things though. And she kept me going. She knew why I was doing this and that NOT finishing, no matter how long it took, was not an option.

Ugh. THIS lap. This was the unknown lap. The longest I had ever run before was 75 miles. Mike and Crystal got me a coffee before this lap which was HEAVEN but did not wake me up much, lol. Crystal joined me to pace at this point and Mushie was going to meet up with us at the other end. I told Crystal where I was at, that I just needed to be reminded to keep switching up as walking actually hurt more than running. I was not feeling all that talkative as I really was so tired my brain could not formulate complete thoughts. She did great, walking fast in front of me to keep me going and running with me when I could shuffle. At this point the 15 milers were out and I wish I could have been more happy to see them as they were SO psyched to be out there...I was so focused on simply keeping myself upright, I fear I was not to pleasant...but I did appreciate all the words of encouragement even though I didn't look like I did. ;) We got to the other end and there was Mushie and Steve, happy and raring to go. The trip back to the start was rough. I spent probably half of it crying, I was NOT talking much, and I did not know how I was going to keep going, knowing I STILL had another 10 miles after this. When I passed the 100 mile turn around rock I lost it...knowing that was where I was headed the next lap and knowing I would do this despite how I felt was a very emotional moment. The last climb up towards the end was my undoing...I think I lost it(again) there. Mushie reminded me that I was NOT going to quit, I was going to get this done no matter what. She and Crystal had decided, unbeknownst to me that they were going to try to get me in under the 12:00 cut-off. Mushie informed me we would be running from the last road crossing until the finish and though it is probably only a half a mile it felt like 2 and I am pretty sure it brought a new round of tears. They got me through and I missed it by 4 minutes. It was ok because even thought I was not sure how the hell I was going to get this done, I had already told Steve if I missed the cut-off I was going out unofficially to finish.

I did NOT want to go out. There was NO part of me that wanted to be on my feet any longer. Dave was to take this lap but due to the fact we got in earlier than I thought and a soccer game that ran long, he was not there. We made arrangements for him to meet me out there and poor Mushie came out with me again...her foot was a mess and I know she too, was in tremendous pain...but she also knew I needed her emotionally, and this is what sisters do. I was a mess from the start. We walked and shuffled for maybe 2 miles and Dave caught up with us so Mushie could go back. We said our goodbyes and she headed back to the start, and Dave took me on. I LOST it almost immediately. The pain was overwhelming as was the fatigue, there was no part of me that wanted to do this. He did not get emotional, he just kept me going. I kept telling him I wanted to sit and he would not let me. We got to Bigl and Steve was there...he let us know there would be no aid station when we got back. We headed on for the 2 longest effing miles of my life...and of course the turn-around rock was further away than I thought- in my mind it was right after the pumpkin bridge when in fact it was not...and I had to keep going...when I got to that rock I lost it again...partly because I knew I would finish, and partly because i still had 5 freaking miles to go. On the way back I BEGGED Dave to let me sit for 1 minute. That was all. I was one hot mess at that point and he gave in. I was allowed to sit for 1 minute at each bench we passed. (and a tree stump once...) FINALLY I thought to loosen my sneakers and PRAISE ALL THAT IS HOLY what sweet relief I felt. It didn't take care of ALL the pain but the relief was enough to get me through. The last climb was brutal but I knew it meant we were almost there. When I got to the tunnel I was ecstatic. We were almost done. I was going to finish. I shuffled the last bit as my kids rand down to meet me. Of course that made me cry AGAIN. As we crossed the dam for the last time, there was a double rainbow in the sky. It is choking me up right now still. I finished. The rainbow was SO symbolic. It was probably the most beautiful one I had ever seen and I felt like it was there for me to see...I did it. I overcame it all, I never quit, it was never an option. I am not the same person I was a year ago, and that Chapter of my life is now officially closed. 100 miles...done.

It was so awesome to come in and see my family, Mike, Steve, Stas(congrats on YOUR first 100), and the other woman whose name escapes me(Sorry!)...I SO appreciate you all waiting until I finished. Steve, Mike, Crystal and Mushie...your gift for me was unbelievable and I will treasure it always. I was honored that Kind-Woman-Whose-Name-Escapes-Me gave me a finishers spike for my perseverance to go out and finish despite it not being Officially Official.

I am blown away at just how amazing the Ultra community is. I have met friends through this group who have become family. The support and kindness is something i have never seen in any other sport. I am so honored to be part of such a good group of people. The volunteers were amazing, most of them there for a VERY long time, always ready to help and get you anything you needed...the RD...what can I say. Love this guy, and can't say enough about him and this race. If you EVER thought about trying an Ultra...THIS is the race to try. There isn't another one out there that would be better for your first than this one.

By the time I got home my body was letting me know how it felt about this little adventure. Walking up the stairs was horrific and I was shaking from chills so badly I couldn't get warm enough. Shower(ouch) and straight to bed, after slathering Arnica cream on my lower extremities. Had the usual post-ultra fitfull sleep complete with night sweats, yeah...but this morning I have to say other than being completely spent and tired, I am in better shape than I thought I would be. Legs are sore, but swelling is not too bad and I can shuffle around the house pretty well. Only *injury* is one I expected, overuse in the front of my right ankle. Wrapped it up before i went to bed so its not bad this morning. Oh...and the chafing....we aren't going to discuss that...

My crew...I could NOT have done this without you all. You got me through this, talked me through some pretty bad lows and I am SO grateful for you all. Dave, NONE of this could have happened without your support of my crazy hobby.Thank you for loving me and being there to share this with me.

To all my friends out there who ran and those of you I don't know...a BIG congratulations to you. Even if you didn't hit the mileage you may have wanted, miles are miles and its something to be proud of. Besides....there's always next year... ;)

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Hellooooooooo out there!

I know I haven't been around in forEVER, but things have been a little busy 'round these parts! I have been working my behind off trying to establish my Personal Training *career* and organize my schedule so that clients/classes and my at-home stuff is well balanced. I have several private clients who are just amazing and are really committed to doing what it takes. I have one class that is going to turn into a private group come November and let me tell you, these gals are kicking ass and taking names. They are starting to see the beginnings of their efforts, but definitely feel the effort! I also have 2 new classes on the table and hope to get another more local class going as well. I did not ever think I would enjoy group training over private training...I love them both but the energy of a class and then everyone feeding off each other's energy is simply awesome. :)

So I would say things are going pretty well! I just added a credit app to my phone so people can pay me via credit card which is a HUGE bonus. My *manager* Jen has been helping me keep things on track and guiding me in the ways of business and I feel like things are really starting to fall into place. I will have my winter schedule hammered out over the next few weeks. Pretty darn exciting to feel like I am FINALLY on my Path and doing what I am *meant* to do. I have wanted to be working with REAL women, empowering them on their paths towards wellness, fitness, and being comfortable in their own skin.

My own training has been going REALLY well. I have been off antibiotics for my Lyme since first week in June and went through what *would* have been the worst time of the year for me and I made it through completely symptom free! I stopped the other immune drug I was taking mid-September and still doing fine. I am OVER the moon about this! I would be thrilled if this is an actual remission!!! I am having some labs done this week for something that may be going on, BUT we are already tackling it *in case* and it seems to be under control...just a hiccup, that's all. I have been very careful to listen to my body and take rest days when I need them as to not over tax my body. I have been running more than ever and doing my own strength training along with the training I do with clients and I have to say I am probably in the best shape of my adult life. My nutrition is going pretty well, though I am still battling the gut issues to some degree so trying to figure out what I can and cannot eat, and then eat enough and get enough nutrition....that may be an ongoing battle for me but if that is the ONLY battle? I'll take it.

All of this makes me happy as I am 2 weeks out from my redemption attempt at Ghost Train 100! Last year somewhere between 45-60 my body revolted (though it had been coming on for some time) and I had to drop at 60. There was no physical way I could have finished and I know that. It had been a tough year personally leading up to that race and that along with some health stuff, was a recipe for disaster. Just goes to show, that it doesn't matter how well you *think* you are prepared for an ultra....race day anything can happen.

The last 2 years have been extremely difficult personally, and I feel as if I am FINALLY coming down from the mountain. Physically I am SO much better than last year, and emotionally I am almost a different person. So...this race is pretty symbolic as last year it was the beginning of the end, so to speak, and this year I have come full circle. I am fairly certain I will be able to finish, barring any unforeseen circumstances, and I have my husband and bff/sister Michelle to pace me along with my amazing crew, aka my eldest boy child. I have been training smart, and all my ducks are in a row I simply have to continue to stay healthy, and keep going in the right direction.

And the countdown begins...

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Looks can be deceiving.....

There has been a rash of critics circulating round the interwebs who apparently feel they have the right to critique people's bodies. And what they wear. And what they eat. Hmmm, interesting. Well, you know what they say about opinions...they are like a**holes, everybody has one. Doesn't mean they need to SHARE.

I find my knickers getting into a wad over all this opinion sharing. Because, in reality it is NOT constructive, usually hurtful, and comes from an insecure place. I mean really...why on EARTH would ANYONE care what another person eats, wears, does....unless it brings up something in THEM. Which is basically what it is. By doing what *you* do, you, GASP, may make another person uncomfortable. How dare you!!! I, of course say get over your damn self. Don't like it don't look. What part of none-of-your-business is unclear? The reality is, people gonna be people.

The latest hot button it the LOVELY woman who wore a 2 piece bathing suit. She was a larger build. She bought a suit that was made by a company that catered to larger women. Want to know something? Her suit looked GREAT. It fit her perfectly, was not letting the world see things we shouldn't, she was able to enjoy a day at the beach swimming and playing with her family/friends in the suit of her choice. But, somehow this is wrong? Because she is *overweight and shouldn't be out -like that-...* Um, wtf is THAT all about? *Like* WHAT exactly? Apparently, the thought was because she was overweight she must be a sloth who should not see the light of day, and CERTAINLY should not go to the beach and, um, be active. about that.

So, I have been doing some people watching. I have seen MANY a bathing suit as of late, as I am at the beach with my kids every day. There are the usual teene-boppers  in their cute bikini's, there are the mom's in appropriate *mom suits* and kids in all sorts of suits. Then there are the teens who may be a bit more sturdy, wearing the cute bikini's but appearing very insecure about it and trying to hide their body while still *fitting* in with their friends. There are some larger women who are ROCKING 2 piece suits. There are other women still that clearly not a f*ck is given and they wear whatever and are loving every minute of sun bathing and swimming they get. I also see many moms who aren't wearing a suit at all. Or its under their clothes. On a 90* day they are sitting in clothes, NOT enjoying the water or sun because they don't want to be *seen*. I wear a bathing suit that I feel comfortable in. Several actually. I am willing to bet people are FAR more *disturbed* by my tattoos than the suit I am wearing, lol, but I wear what I like and not another thought is given about that topic. But for many....that is not the case.

That sucks. We as a society have made women feel bad about their bodies to the point they won't even go enjoy the beach with their kids. Because they are afraid they will be judged. Not cool. I have said that beauty, health, *fit* can come in ALL shapes and sizes. I actually DO believe this. I refuse to judge someone based on how they look. I have NO idea how they got to that point- are they sick? creating an emotional shield? went through a bad time and ate for comfort and now they feel stuck? Grew up that way and know nothing else? SO many things that someone looking in has NO idea of.

For a VERY long time I was, well, obsessed with my weight/body. YEARS. I have been overweight by medical standards, and very under weight. I cannot even tell you how much time I have wasted worrying about how I looked. Getting ready to go ANYWHERE was incredibly stressful. It has taken a long time and a LOT of work on my *insides* to get to where I am now. At 5'6" I hover around 135-140. I clock in at the high end of acceptable weight for my height. 10 more pounds and I would be considered overweight by *The Charts* But here's the thing....I work out. A lot. I trained for a year to get in the shape I am and loved every minute of it. I train WITH clients now, and I run my miles for my own training. I have put on a good deal of muscle in the last year, and gone down in clothing sizes. Yet, if I go to the Dr. and they plot me on a Chart I *could* be told I am approaching overweight. (Good thing my dr's don't do that or their might be bloodshed...) Years ago that would have made me lose my mind. I would starve myself and wear the lightest clothes possible if I went in and knew I would be weighed. Really??? SO foolish. Now, I could care less. Want to know why? Because THIS body can work out with clients numerous times a day. THIS body can run up and down mountains. THIS body is not *sick* (been off antibiotics for 6 weeks now...longest time in YEARS) THIS body FEELS good. And all of that has NOTHING to do with a number on a scale. My weight can fluctuate up to 10lbs in a WEEK. You wouldn't see it, but if I lost it every time that happened I would be a crazy person.

When I talk to people/clients and I ask them about their goals, I will often say I don't want a number. I do not ask for a weight unless we are figuring out calorie requirements. After that, I never ask again. I may check in to see if they are losing, but I don't care about the number. What I care about is how they FEEL. Do you feel good? Have energy? Sleeping ok? Getting enough nutrition in to fuel your life?(so many people do not eat enough! 1200 calorie diets are for people in comas, not people up and living life.) I will tell people if you want to track progress measure yourself. See how your clothes fit. Look for muscle development and how much better you are feeling by being more active. Because I have NO idea what your perfect-for-YOU body size will be. Maybe its a size 6...maybe its a 12? 20? Basically it is the size that is best for you. The size you can maintain with ease, with a workout routine you enjoy, eating enough good food to keep you energized, THAT is the *sweet spot* So, whatever size/weight/shape you are when you hit that point...well, there you go.

I may get a rash of sh*t from medical people, other trainers, etc because I refuse to *conform* and use the charts and weight loss and, and blahblahblah in my work with people and ya know what? Don't care. Seriously I don't. I think it puts undue pressure on people to fit into a box they may NEVER fit into and then the feel they have failed. Know what happens after that? They give up. They quit. My goal with people is that they NEVER give up because the only *box* they need to fit into is their own. I want people to accomplish little goals on their way to bigger goals. To feel positive about every step they take. To build confidence in themselves because they CAN do things and they ARE stronger and took charge of their life and did something great for THEM. Not society/a boyfriend/husband/insert someone who has no right to comment on your body of the greatest gifts I got in my own training/healing process was the realization of just how strong I am. The amazing things my body can do. That filtered over into other areas of my life. Suddenly those mountains(metaphorically speaking) I was climbing didn't seem so bad/high/rocky because I gained confidence in myself. THAT is probably THE most important thing I hope to help people find when they work with me.  I want them to find THEM. All the rest is icing on the cake. And cake. :)

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

We all have our mountains to climb. So get out there and climb them.

Wow. How to adequately describe one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I am not sure I can do it justice, to be honest, but I am going to try as I want this somewhere I can look back on.

Last year after my friend M did Peak(380 KILLER miles, mind you) I made a commitment to her- I would train for a year and help her get it done in 2014. I would come up and pace/crew/enter jobs here to get her through to the end. I made a plan to get in the best shape I could, get physically strong as I knew how hard the course would be, run as much as I could, and get on the mountain as often as I could. I had a few health glitches along the way, but for the most part I did what I set out to do. I wanted to be in top form so that whatever M needed from me, I could do it. I NEVER wanted to say *I can't*...and I didn't. We ran many a long run together in training, over hills, hills and more hills and throw a mountain in for good measure...*suck runs* we called them... I was able to run 130 miles up on that mountain with her on her journey to 400 miles. And the experience was life changing.

There are several parts of this story. First off...the runners. 5 runners started off on this journey and 3 made it to the end. What I witnessed on that mountain in those runners...I saw someone push on until he simply could not push further. I saw someone who spent YEARS getting ready for THIS moment, reach his goal. I watched someone push beyond everything to get to the finish. And I witnessed my sister-from-another-mother transcend from what she was to who she is. It was an extremely emotional experience as this type of thing is SO much more than a race. It is a pilgrimage. It is a journey. You go out on that mountain, on a course that is pretty intense and designed to break you...and break you it will. You are left with your raw self. You are sleep deprived, hungry, in pain and emotionally spent. Then it is just you and the trail. The support for this event, the pacers and crew...its a job everyone should be lucky enough to do. To watch your runner go out on that loop time and time again, when they just want to sleep, when it hurts, A LOT, the strength they showed....unreal. To watch other crews, well oiled machines that had everything down to a science, awesome. To see someone with no crew, who was starting to wane, and watch other runner's crews who were total strangers, jump in and help with whatever was needed- pacing, food, just giving was how life SHOULD be. The support was across the board. Always checking in with other crew to see how their runner was doing, to see if they needed anything, to offer support, or to just talk while we waited for our runners to come in. The people I met during this friends...there was a bond formed. Out in that place, disconnected from the regular world, it was just people. And I have come to care very much for these people. They are a special family and I will always remember this time spent with them because you are instantly close...when you spend THAT much time with people, the walls come down very quickly. My life is richer with these people in it.

We had all kinds of times. There were some absolutely hilarious times, where we simply lost our minds and our senses and were foolish and silly and ridiculous and it was GLORIOUSLY fun. We could go on for an hour about the most insane things and laugh until our sides ached and we couldn't breathe. There were some incredibly profound times where we had revelations about ourselves and our lives that stopped us in our tracks, knowing that things would never be quite the same again. There were quiet times of simply going in to look around at what was in there. There was growth. There was release. There were quiet tears for what was and what is, and for the suffering. There were breakdowns and meltdowns. There were joyous moments and HUGE accomplishments. And we left it ALL out there.

The last year plus has not been an easy one for me. There have been numerous challenges in my life with my health and personal life that have thrown me off a cliff more than once. I have had my mountains to climb, and climb I did, even if it meant as soon as I got down the other side there was another one waiting. It was, and still is, challenging. But, if its worth it, its worth working for. Though I did not do NEARLY the running that these amazing people did, there were moments out there where my brain was simply quiet. There was nothing. It was breathing, moving....and that was it. That NEVER happens. It was simply quiet in my head. Those were probably some of the more powerful moments for me. I also had some pretty intense *come to Jesus* moments...I realized just how far I have come in my life. That I am a good person, worthy of good things. I CAN set my mind to doing something and succeed...and that is ok. Actually, its BETTER than ok its wonderful and I deserve that. Some harder stuff came out too...I realized that I had been using my illness as a crutch, an excuse. It was my built in failure mechanism. I could fail and it was ok because I was *sick*...I was creating more illness than was there by allowing that to be part of who I was. Because of my own issues of never being good enough, or never allowing myself TO succeed, I simply accepted the fact I was a failure and I could live with that. So, races in particular, as well as other things in my life, I KNEW or I thought, if I failed, which I probably would, I could always use my illness as an excuse. It was a cop-out. A WAY out. That really hit me like a ton of bricks, and literally stopped me dead on the trail. I simply did not believe in myself enough to think I *could* do it(whatever *it* was) so I blamed the illness. How many times have I actually given that illness power over me? Over my life? I am certainly stronger than it is, I have proven that time and time again. When you know better, you do better and now I know...and I am taking that power back. I am more than an illness and will no longer be defined by it.

I realized just how strong I am while I was out there. When we got down to the last day, it was VERY emotional. I was about to watch one of my most dearest friends in the whole world conquer her mountain. And, I was about to conquer my own. I left M at the summit of her 2nd to last lap as she needed time to be with herself. I ran down that mountain crying. It was my breaking point. I truly needed to leave it ALL on that mountain. I got to the bottom, and knew I just wasn't done. I had so much left inside me that I did not want to bring home. I needed to let it all go. With an egg sandwich in my hand and sobbing like a fool, I did one more lap...and I left it all there. ALL of it. I knew when I finished that last stretch I was not leaving as the person who arrived there. And that was a good thing.

After changing I got settled to wait for M to finish her last miles. I watched several other runners finish up the 100 and 200 mile runs knowing that they too would be going home different people. And there she was...with the most beautiful smile on her face. She had done it. She had met her goal...and so much more. It was amazing. I am SO incredibly grateful that she allowed me to be there for this journey with her. I am honored to have been able to witness that 400 mile transformation. I will always cherish the times we had out there on those trails, times we shared with others and the times we had alone...some of the best times of my life. This was SUCH a gift and a blessing. I am so very grateful for it.

Friday, May 16, 2014

But, but...I'm not ready!

Probably the most commonly used phrase by people contemplating changing their life. And to that I say *When, pray tell, do you think you WILL be ready?* If you wait until something happens, an accident, illness, warmer weather, cooler weather, insert-excuse-here, you will probably never start. And that isn't laziness, its a lack of self value.

If you are sitting there, feeling bad, unhealthy, weak, out of shape, etc thinking you really ought to do something about it...then by golly get off your a$$ and do it! NO ONE is too busy to take care of them self. If you take an HONEST look at your day, there are very few people who can say they truly don't have time. Most people have LOTS of time...we just fill it up with mindless things, aka waste it. I am certainly guilty of this. There are PLENTY of times I *should* be doing something else, or could be doing something else and instead, I would rather sit on my heiny and go on facebook, or read, or insert-distraction-from-life-here...well if you TAKE that time and give it to yourself to take care of you...IMAGINE! :) But what it really boils down to is a lack of self value. We put ourselves at the bottom of the list(women, especially mothers) behind everyone and everything else, including the dog (cat, ducks...)and that has to change. How are you supposed to do ALL that you do AND make time for you and do it all with the best of your ability if you are not putting yourself near the top of that list? You can't drive a car with no gas. You can't run a lawnmower with no gas. You can't do MANY things with no *gas* why are you living your life running on no *gas*?

There will never BE a *right time* so why not start now? Make today the first day of the rest of your life. Learn to eat better for your lifestyle. Find a fitness program you enjoy. Build some strength in that amazing body of yours. You will sleep better, feel better and you will not regret it. If you don't take care of you FIRST (or at LEAST put yourself in the top 5) then how are you supposed to care for anyone else? When you give to yourself first you WILL have that energy and strength to do all of those things you want to do for others. I do not have a ton of time to go to the gym and do all sorts of stuff there AND get my running in. Plus, for me, the gym is not somewhere I want to be for *my* workouts...I want to be outside, or home as then I am usually multi-tasking, lol...but that is why the program I most favor is the exact one I do myself. Its quick, gets the job done and gets results. Its the one I would go to first for ANYONE wanting to change their life and health because its easy and quick and shows you you DO have time to work out and you will see results. Its easy to fit into your life and your routine.

This goes for diet as well...too busy to cook for yourself? Nonsense. There are plenty of healthy options you can make/eat that take no time at all. And you DESERVE to put good food into your body! Most people actually don't eat enough food to fuel their lifestyle (and I mean ALL sized people) Well, again...if there isn't enough gas in the car, you aren't going to get far, are you? If you fill your tank, your car can go all day! Same goes with *your* tank. You need to fuel for your activities. When you fill your *tank* you will feel better and have more energy. When you fill your tank with GOOD *gas* you are unstoppable. This does not mean you cannot eat the foods you love anymore, it simply means you need to eat a balance of foods, and only what your body needs(calorie-wise). I say follow the 80/20 rule. For the average person looking to feel better and get fit, make sure 80% of those calories you need come from quality foods. Doesn't HAVE to be organic, you do the best you can. If you can eat organic, great. If you can't, you can still eat a healthy diet. (make sure you wash and/or peel those fruits and veggies though) 20% of your calories can be foods that may be less than stellar...but darn it you like them. Chocolate, some wine, ice cream...they aren't *bad* foods, but you don't want to run your engine on them. I find that for most people, if you tell them they can't have something or not to eat something and label it BAD, they will want it more. Then they eat that bad food, and ugh, I messed everything up so I may as well have the whole day thinking you failed and why bother...wash, rinse, repeat. Well, you won't get far that way...instead, if you want that slice of cake and you know you ate really well that day...have it. Need something sweet every day? Plan something into your day then. Like the vino? Plan for that glass or 2...getting fit does NOT have to be punishment OR complicated and hard, because you know what? If it is either of those things, you aren't going to do it, do it for long, or stick with it. If it is something comfortable, guilt free, easy...why WOULDN'T you do it?

This is what I really want to teach people. You simply start where you are and go from there. Make simple changes, tweaks and adjustments in your life and perspective and the results will come. You will be so happy you did it. You will then stick with it. And you ARE worth it. You are valuable. You deserve it. :)

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Running on Half-Full, aka Trying to be Healthy with AI DIsease

Something I have wanted to write about for a LONG time is being a runner with a chronic illness.
I am certainly NOT the only one, as in my circle of running friends I know several, and though we haven't gotten into the nitty-gritty of it all, I am willing to guess we all face similar battles in order to do the things we love to do. Every time I line up at a race, I am already at a deficit. My training may not be as consistent as other runners, my nutrition not as good, I struggle with hydration and eating enough because of my GI issues, I have trouble regulating my body temperature so if its too hot/cold or *I* get too hot/cold it could be an issue. I have to carry an epi pen and Benadryl because though I know what foods I can't eat, I also randomly react to things that normally I wouldn't and need to be able to treat that...or I have to carry all my own food/drink. For longer races I have to worry about bringing medications and making sure I remember to take xyz at the right times. Sometimes I am not recovered enough from a flare to run a race and I have to drop, or sometimes the pain I live with daily becomes too much during a race and I have to stop. Sometimes a flare is coming and I think I can squeak by...and then it hits me full on during a race and, well, that is the end of that. Other times, everything lines up absolutely perfectly and I go out and run and have a GRAND time and love every minute of it because I know every good/successful race is a blessing.

It doesn't really matter what illness one has, Autoimmune Illness follows a pretty similar path: pain, fatigue, feeling unwell, various neurological/GI/insert-annoying-symptom-here. Add any disease specific issues you face and there you go. Not fun. And it is a HUGE battle to fight. I think the hardest part is that most people with any sort of AI (Autoimmune Illness) *looks* fine...yet they feel like they are dying on the inside. This adds a extra layer or 10 to the journey of fitness and health. In an ideal world, you would talk to a Personal Trainer (hey, like the one writing this!) and discuss your goals, what you would like to accomplish, talk about your diet and the changes that can be made, set up a schedule and off you go. If you follow it, 6 weeks down the road you will see some changes, and by month 3 even more, and so on. If you are dealing with AI it may look something like this: Week 1 and 2 are great, week 3 you are slammed with fatigue so severe brushing your teeth is a chore AND now you can't eat eggs because for some reason your body is reacting to them and making those healthy meals is too much effort so you you decide that potato chips and a glass of chocolate milk would be a great meal...for the next 3 days...week 4 you are better, so you can do half of your intended workouts and eating a *little* bit better but now your stomach is acting up preventing you from getting enough calories...and you have insomnia so your energy and recovery are not the best...Week 5 finds you feeling better so back at it you go! Week 6 and 7 are good, then weeks 8-10 find you in another AI flare which continues on for a month...At that point you might say, *why should I even bother? This isn't going to work/worth it/I can't keep up. I'm here to tell you that you SHOULD bother because you are worth it.

If you find yourself in this situation, being a person with an AI who decides that getting healthy/fit/strong is something you want to accomplish, you need to find someone who GETS what you are dealing with. It is not impossible for you to make health and fitness goals and even accomplish them, you may simply need more time, support, and a plan you can follow that is tailored for YOU and your specific and unique needs. As someone with 2 different AI's I ABSOLUTELY understand all of this. There have been times I have been sailing right along, feeling good, running all the time, working out, eating pretty well, sleeping...all my ducks lined up quite nicely. Then, usually at a MOST inconvenient time, the symptoms creep in...a little extra fatigue. Recovery is not what I expect. Weights that I had been lifting fine, feel a bit heavier. Needing to take more *rest days*...cue up my other symptoms and BAM, back in a flare. I am fortunate that it doesn't happen as often, but it HAS happened and it can be a week, two weeks  or even months. There have been times I have had to give up exercise all together because I simply could. not. do. anything. It is hard, depressing, and makes you really think *why bother?*

The thing is, ANY sort of aerobic exercise and strength training, and it can be as simple as walking and a few body-weight exercises, is going to improve your health. In the many, MANY years of research I have done on AI's and their various *cures* just about every single one suggests daily exercise as tolerated. It has a myriad of benefits and I truly believe in my own case, the fact that I have been a runner most of my life and have run through most of my illness, I have not been sicker. And as bad as it has been at times, it COULD have been a whole lot worse. I have always tried to do SOMETHING whenever I felt well enough to do so. The increased oxygenation of your system, getting your heart pumping, fresh air(if you go outside) increased metabolism from exercise and strength training, and the MENTAL aspect...that alone has saved me as running IS my therapy.

That being said, it can be very frustrating to embark on an exercise and fitness program, start seeing results and thinking *Hey, look at me go!* only to fall back into a flare/relapse for xyz amount of time and think you have *lost all your gains*. The most important thing about that is, you simply cannot go there. You can't think *well why should I bother if I am just going to be sick again?* That is like someone who  is looking to lose weight saying *well, why bother doing all this, I will just gain all the weight back.* Um, well if you set your mind that way...yes. You are right. But, if you allow yourself the space to simply roll with things, and know that yes, right NOW you can't follow your program, but in a week/month when you are stronger you can get right back on that horse. Because as you move forward toward your fitness goals, you may find your relapses/flares to be less often/severe/long. You have to be able to accept and recognize that YOUR fitness and exercise goals and progress are not going to look the same as your *healthy* neighbor. You have to be able to allow for the bumps in the road, knowing that you may veer off course for a bit but that you can get back on that Path again just as easily. And there is no hard and fast rule as to how long it should take you to meet your goals. They are YOUR goals.

I can absolutely and with total honesty say that my running has saved me on more ways than one. Yes, there have been times that I had to take days/weeks/months off and I did worry about losing fitness/muscle/endurance etc. And you know what? Sometimes I did. Sometimes it felt like I was almost starting all over again. There have been times I DID have to start all over. But the very interesting thing is, the longer you commit to and follow an exercise routine, the more your body remembers it. That's right, your body is pretty smart. In the beginning, you may find it truly feels like starting over. That is why I say find something you LOVE to do because even if you DO have to start over, who cares, its still fun. :) But as your body becomes more and more accustomed to your routine, it will take less and less time to get back to the fitness level you had before getting sick/relapse/flare again. I have seen it first hand in myself. I was out for 6 weeks in the fall with some health issues. Lost a good deal of muscle, hadn't run...when I was finally able to run again, I went from 20m/wk to probably 50+ m/wk inside a month and had reclaimed the muscle I had lost in probably a month to 6 weeks. It requires some patience on your part, but it is simply have to accept that your particular Path may have a few extra bumps and side roads than most.

That is the hardest part of having a chronic AI or any chronic illness. Acceptance. Realizing that this is your lot in life and somehow you simply have to make the best of it, play the cards you were dealt. I think it is EXTREMELY important to work with someone who *gets* this. Another reason I became a PT was because I DO get it, and I understand that a program with someone with a chronic illness can and probably will need to be changed up pretty regularly to accommodate where the person is at. It is also why I became certified in Sports Nutrition as well. :)

Another piece of the puzzle is obviously diet. Anyone who has listened to me blather on knows what I think of all the diets out there. I am VERY passionate about finding an eating plan that works for individual people in their individual lives according to their individual needs. Add an AI/chronic illness to the mix and usually all bets are off. Food sensitivities/allergies, special diets, diets that have to change according to where the person is in their cycle...all things I have done a ridiculous amount of research on and have used in my own life and am VERY familiar with. I believe that no matter WHAT your restrictions are, there is a way to make up an eating plan that is easy, enjoyable, and fits into your life.

Basically, my goal is to offer the support I wish I had when I was struggling. I wish I could have gone to someone who could have said *Here's what we'll do, here's what you can eat and this is how we will get through this...* Well, if you can't find it, create it :) and that is what I am hoping to do. I don't want anyone to ever feel the way I did, I don't ever want someone to feel like they can't do what others are doing because they got a few extra cards to deal with. I realized early on that I did not want to *become* my illness, it was not going to define me. I was a person WITH an illness, but I am SO much more than that. I want to help others to find that place as well. Illness is simply a chapter(ok, maybe 2) in your book. But there are PLENTY of other chapters as well. You can make those chapters anything you like, so make them great. :)

Monday, May 5, 2014

Its a revolution! Of sorts.

Many many years ago, I would have not pictured myself wanting to become a personal trainer. I had the stereo-typical notion that they were all *muscle heads* that worked in gyms and if you went to one you would become a muscle head too. :) Which is a-ok, if that is what you want...but I am guessing that is NOT what everyone wants. Part of what drew me in was watching what was going on around me in my very limited community of athletes, and my circle of acquaintances. I started thinking about how obsessed people were about diets and Paleo this, and fat-free that, and grain free, and vegan, and raw, and, and, and....and yet  people were NOT getting the results they really wanted, nor were they lasting because what they wanted and what was their reality were never going to be friends. I  had to learn this lesson. Yet, I was starting to see this swing in a new direction. A direction where people were doing their own thing. Playing by their own rules, in all shapes and sizes and were, gasp, happy with the results. Now,  I will tell you a little story about me....

 Once upon a time I was anorexic. In high school. I was actually quite overweight, despite running quite often. I was the *fat girl*. I was the *good listener* and the *good friend* know how that goes. Well, one summer I decided to become a vegetarian. I was not a big fan of meat, and when I started reading about it I thought hey, that is pretty cool! Told my mother I wanted to do it and she said it was ok as long as I did the research and was eating a healthy diet. I was 15. By becoming vegetarian, it changed the way I ate more than simply cutting out meat. I had a better awareness of what I was putting into my body so instead of mindlessly eating whatever to dull some emotions(which is how I got to be overweight in the first place) I was AWARE of what I ate. And, I also lost weight. A good deal actually. I was running more, losing weight and people noticed. At the time, that was what flipped the switch in me, followed up by various other life issues, and I was hooked. I became obsessed with running and what I ate. I would bet I was not consuming more than 800 calories a day IF that. I wish I could find a picture of myself from that time because it actually makes me uncomfortable to look at. Thing was, I was not 80lbs anorexic, just based on my genetics and bone structure, I was more like 115lb anorexic. Which, many people would say, "5'6" and 115? That's great!" Um, no. It isn't great. The thing was, it was not a NATURAL weight for me. I was STARVING myself to get to that weight. I was running twice a day EVERY SINGLE DAY to stay at that weight. And nobody knew how bad it was. I never told anyone.

Even though there were many layers to that whole time in my life, what I used to tell myself, in my half-starved state is I was doing this because that was *what runners looked like* ... um...ok. Much of my identity for YEARS, and to a certain extent still is, was wrapped up in me being a runner. I ran. A lot. Its what I did, its who I was. Well, by golly, I was going to look the part. And the only role models I had at the time, were the tiny little elite marathon runners featured in Runner's World. Several problems with this...1)I was not an elite marathoner. 2)They were generally around 5'2" and 100lbs soaking wet NATURALLY.  3) Genetics. Yet, I had it in my head I wanted to look the part and if that meant  not be it. Problem with that is if you don't put gas in the car, it ain't gonna run...and my running career came to a screeching(albeit temporary)halt my Sophomore year in college after my SECOND stress fracture. Of course I did NOT put 2 and 2 together so not much changed. Over the years my weight went up and down, I ran more, I ran less but when I was running more, I immediately went to the place of needing to *look the part*.  Here's the thing though...I do NOT look like a stereotypical runner. I am not built that way. Its not in my genetics. I come from a sturdy line of Bulldogs, not sleek Greyhounds and no matter what I do, this bulldog will never be a greyhound. :) But, again, as much as I am a reasonably aware and grounded individual, I am not without failings and one of which is I STILL, in the recesses of my mind, think I need to *look the part*. I laugh at the absurdity because REALLY Julie? Have you learned ANYTHING??? Fortunately, I have. But, I am human and certainly not a perfect one at that.

So, here's what I DO know. I know that fitness and health comes in ALL sorts of packages. BMI charts and the like are garbage and NOT an accurate reflection of true wellness, fitness, strength, endurance, etc. I know that personally, I can run farther, and longer now than I EVER could at 115lbs. I know that the better I eat, the better I feel. I know that even though I don't *look* like a runner, I can run up a mountain without stopping. More than once. I can do a 50k with very little notice, bang out a hilly 20 miler and the next day do it again. I also know that strength training will cure almost anything that ails you ;) that all *they* say about the benefits of lifting weights and adding some sort of strength training regimen is true. And I want to share that with everyone. And with that, I started to look around and realized...people are actually starting to *get it*...I noticed that at road races there are every shape and sized runner you can think of. At ultras, which are races LONGER than a marathon again, ALL shapes and sizes. I started looking at other events that you would think would have a very stereotypical body type and... wait for it...ALL shapes and sizes! What do you know!

THIS is why I became a Personal Trainer. Because I wanted to find people where they are right that second and help them find their way from there. I wanted to show people that you don't HAVE to look like anyone other than who you are, and who you become. I wanted to introduce people to the fact that they actually CAN eat the foods they love, because its all about the balance. I want to help people find an activity they love and help them *train* for that activity because if you train for what you enjoy, you will enjoy the training. I want to tach people that strength training isn't *just* for your body, but it changes your mind as well, as when you start to gain strength and feel physically stronger, the mind follows. I want to teach people that the journey is JUST as important as the destination...more important, in fact. Its a marathon, not a sprint, so you might as well enjoy it along the way.