This is just to say grief is hard

Many people I care about are struggling right now, and I am too. Time moves differently with grief. I check the clock often to understand when I am. Yes, when.

Grief has brought feelings of not being enough. I’ve learned over the years (and therapy, please, therapy is the best) this not enough is a vague malaise—there isn’t a specific thing I think I need to do more. I’m getting down on myself without anything concrete, mostly grasping for something to hold. There have been some very wonderful things happening this month, so the grief sneaks in as I simultaneously feel joy.

I’ll keep on running into the new year. In the trees, in the sun, in the rain—I am moving and free and nearly outside of my skin. Specifically, there are 2023 races I’m thinking about. I’m not even sure what my goals are for each race, other than learn something about myself and go long. I’m working to get enough protein and stretch while I work through the grief this way. I don’t need to be injured and sad.

This is just to say, I often write about not wanting to be vulnerable. Sick is not fragile. When I reflect on the past year, I’m not actively sick anymore. I can plan trips and give hard efforts on run and not be flattened for days or weeks. This is still new, and I’m very grateful (again) for therapy and working through this.

Grief is somehow collective and personal. The grief from the loss of a wonderful person will keep coming in waves, but there is still all this future to reach for. They would appreciate all of us keeping up the fuck around & find out attitude.

Books I’m thinking about / recently read:

  • Please make me pretty, I don’t want to die by Tawanda Mulalu
  • Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong

Stay sweaty and glittery. Black Lives Matter.

No brains, just vibes

I would like to be unremarkable. I received the results from an endoscopy this summer, and the results were unremarkable, which medically speaking, is the best news I can expect.

I say it’s the best news, but no results can be just as unsettling. Am I feeling the way I am because this is what mid-30s feels like? Is there something we haven’t tested for that will rear its ugly head? I talked about this for awhile with a friend recently. When you have medical history, it can be hard to trust the first read of results. Then, I talked about this with one of my doctors and we decided that we’ll stick with routine bloodwork, probably do another endoscopy in a year or two, and then I’ll be old enough for a colonoscopy. We laughed! It wasn’t patronizing, that’s my relationship with her at this point. She also sincerely reminded me that coming down from all the chronic pain and inflammation that comes with endometriosis takes time.

As you can see, I still grapple with anxiety that comes with chronic illness. There is some reality: I know future chronic illness is statistically more likely after an endometriosis diagnosis. Researchers are investigating why this could be.

There is also another reality: I was racing 50 minutes 10ks, 25 minute 5ks when I was physically suffering from endometriosis. Numbers are used as a benchmarks of health. At least when you’re an athlete and know what you are capable of, it’s hard to keep seeing yourself fall short. (Check out the Maintenance Phase podcast to learn how numbers and more can be used insidiously.)

Still—racing can say volumes about what your body is ready for. How different things are from the WebMD video. I ran the Baltimore Running Festival Pandora 10k earlier this month, finally taking down a 10k PR from 2012. I have been trying to tackle this PR for years, throwing myself at it randomly. Not a great plan.

When I ran up to Druid Hill Park and down to the Inner Harbor this month…I let go. To be cliché, I finally managed to get out of my own way. How different my energy is when approaching running these days: no brains, just vibes since going to therapy. Running brings me much joy and serotonin, but I don’t rely on running in the same way I did in my 20s to define my worth. Or even how I wrote about my identity in athletics since starting this blog. Despite being exhilarated about finally cracking a PR, all it really did was create an excuse for free shots with friends because the waitress trusted when they said she won her age group.

Approaching workouts with a no brains, just vibes energy has made them infinitely more relaxed. I’ve been chanting The Applicant by Sylvia Plath in my head (Now your head, excuse me, is empty. / I have the ticket for that.) while listening to my Ashnikko, Panic at the Disco, and Janelle Monáe mix. To be clear, the mix is called Gay & Tired, which maybe one day I’ll get into more, but for now, just know I was the red corvette from “Becky’s So Hot” at the last Version dance party.

Books I’m thinking about / recently read:

  • Into Every Generation a Slayer Is Born: How Buffy Staked Our Hearts by Evan Ross Katz
  • I’m So Fine: A List of Famous Men & What I Had On by Khadijah Queen

Stay sweaty and glittery. Black Lives Matter.

I am deceased

Nothing more unnerving than being a thing.
-Dorothea Lasky, Milk

My first attempt at a longer trail race…was an experience. Not quite unnerving, but felt very much like I didn’t want to be a body. I ran the Hyner Trail Half Marathon yesterday. Quite a few people gave me useful, practical advice beforehand about the course and the climbs, yet the real time experience left me feeling deceased by mile 5. It was a 14 mile race—those last 9 miles were straight guts / wondering if I was a ghost.

I had a little pity party on Strava, so I’d rather focus on additional pieces of the race that struck me in a positive way:

  • PA Trail Dogs put on such a fun race—from clear communication about how to get to the start in a remote area to delightful folks at the aid stations. I am keeping tabs of more races they host throughout the year. The group maintains Central PA trails, and at the adult races, they use proceeds to fund trail races for kids.
  • Pennsylvania trail runners absolutely crush descents. I was told to watch for this before the race, and then every time I saw it happen as I was passed, I would tell the runner they were incredible.
  • Bless the aid stations. I took a spill on a root of a flat section about a half mile before the mile 8 aid station. Correct, I didn’t fall on a technical section. I paused to try to decide if I should just call it an 8 mile training run. I had pickle juice, ginger ale, and then one of the volunteers looked at me while I was sipping coke and said “want some Fireball?” I added some in my soda. This is not a road race, kids.
  • It was not the final climb (so many steep climbs, I misunderstood the elevation chart and expected more rolling hills, my bad), but there was a climb again after the mile 11 aid station. As I stared at the ascent, the speaker at the station started playing “Come Out and Play.” The rage of The Offspring came when I needed it. I did not exactly charge up the hill in my state, but it was a decent effort.
  • A man was playing a banjo and drinking from a growler around mile 12— other runners acknowledged him so I know I wasn’t hallucinating. I told him he was doing it right, we had a brief laugh.
  • I have such a good time with my brother. I was talking about Wineglass and how I never want to hear a race is net downhill ever again, so after I finished Hyner he was like “Well, this race was net downhill. The finish is below the start line.” LOL I had a good laugh in my frustrated post-race mood.
  • Lighter shoes are not always better. I definitely wore the wrong shoes. No, a different shoe wouldn’t take me from a 14 minute-mile struggle descent on switchbacks to an 8 minute-mile send-it, but my toes were not protected enough in my beloved Adidas Terrex Speed Ultra. I thought “race” and brought them, but I should have brought my Altras (I don’t know the model because I bought them so long ago, they are basically Hummers for my feet). My toes were tenderized by all the slamming downhill early in the race. They needed more protection on the descents.

I’ve already debriefed a bit with my coach, and I’m excited to add more long trail efforts to my training and to hit more races. I love the controlled chaos of trail running, and the camaraderie after. I’ll take a few days off, then be back out there logging longer miles for bigger goals, and having a good time with the Faster Bastards Oberhills crew.

Books I’m thinking about / recently read:

  • Milk  by Dorothea Lasky
  • The 2000s Made Me Gay by Grace Perry
  • I’m So Fine by Khadijah Queen

Stay sweaty and glittery. Black Lives Matter.