I saw this meme shortly before the new year, and to put it lightly, flipped out.
What do I mean by being worse?
Melting into me. Relaxing into the lack of chill. Folding into the absurdity of it all. Running up and down Gun Road for fun. Being chalant, wondering about the etymology, then confirming that chalant is indeed slang because the main rule of English is that there are no rules.
I have a bit of a life philosophy, mostly existential, as the former teenager reading The Unbearable Lightness of Being in between lifeguarding shifts. It could just as well be otherwise.
We get to do this.
Themes I can see as I look back on my poetry while editing a full length manuscript and submitting a prize portfolio.
Getting worse. At some point in my late 20s, I stopped having much shame. I’m sending the text, sending the email. I have 18 pages of a Word Doc tracking mostly rejected writing and have an Aquarius moon, I don’t notice the hurt. After doctor appointment on doctor appointment, having to claw my way to an endometriosis diagnosis, what did I have to loose?
It took deeper reflecting after a conversation with my coach about goals for early 2023 to understand more of what I want out of running. I was having trouble pinpointing a “goal” race. Rather, I had a bunch of shit on my calendar that to me, looked like fun trail time with unusual distances. I may shoot for time goals at some point, but mostly I want to go outside and be. I feel the friend I lost in the moon, in crows gliding, in the soft peach of sunrise and sunset.
I am not alone in these haunted moments. A group of us (we all went to an MFA program together) wrote a joint eulogy and wrote through our memories of her.
I am conflicted about writing much about grief on the blog, but like processing chronic illness grief through this venue, I continue to process the loss, even as I’m back to doing things like opening my mail. It seeps into the everyday.
I feel other people carrying their grief as they enter meetings, enter supposedly joyful spaces. So much to think about. To quote what Mandy wrote in i want people to think: I want people to think of the body’s resilient failure, rising from bedspreads of fire and ash screaming “I eat men like air” and then I did.
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
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
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.
Define me in some glitter if I crash. I have a little more pizzazz in my step after an iron infusion, so why not quote Akintoye?
While I was waiting on multiple rounds of bloodwork—literally, I feel like a vampire’s pet over here—I sent in a question about iron to Fuel for the Sole. Meghann Featherstone shared some excellent nutrition advice. However, when you find out you have an autoimmune blood disorder, trends that need a little more than nutrition tweaks come into focus.
I read the bloodwork results on a Friday and spent the weekend panic googling, as one does even when they know they shouldn’t. After talking with my doctor early the next week, I have a better understanding of where I am now: B12 lozenges because my body doesn’t absorb it through my bloodstream as it should (hence the iron dropping as well), and a GI doctor visit scheduled for the end of July. This isn’t my first chronic illness rodeo. I have the hardest time before I have action items. Once I know what I need to do, I’m generally ready to adjust.
Like I mentioned, before these results, I had another iron infusion. My hematologist was keeping close watch on my iron for the past year. After a significant drop in less than 2 months and the other symptoms I was experiencing, he decided it was time for another infusion (I had two in April 2020, before my latest excision and hysterectomy). It was a long year, but it makes sense that we couldn’t rush a treatment. I also appreciated that he didn’t throw iron pills at me—they can be hard on your GI system (something we were sensitive about for me), and as it turns out, my body has trouble with absorption anyway.
While I’m waiting for my GI specialist appointment, I’ve been thinking about interactions with doctors old and new. Cramped Style Blog was posting in her stories about this recently. It’s bizarre to be going over your medical history, bloodwork, all things pointing to chronic illness—then hearing a doctor say you’re in perfect health. Bitch, I’m not here because I’m bored. Are you not looking at the list of symptoms that I painstakingly documented for you to better diagnose me?
Like many folks in the chronic illness community, variations of but you don’t looks sick send me into a rage. I would prefer not to have a rolodex of specialists. As I’ve gotten older, I do try to understand the possible why after the first wave of anger, so I can explain to the doctor how dismissive the language is. Is it thin privilege? Doctors often react this way if you have a BMI under 25 (which is trash science btw). They can’t fathom how you could be ill if it’s not because of your weight. Or is it because if you’re an active person, they can’t fathom how you can train for half marathons, attempt to enjoy your life, while in significant chronic pain? My philosophy is that if I’m going to be in pain, I might as well be having some fun. Or as John Steinbeck recounts in Travels with Charley, “If it’s rotting you want, you can do it any place.”
Since you made it to here, I’ll do some flash recaps of races over the past few months:
BRRC PrettyBoy Trail Race (May 15) So fun!!! It was mostly on fire roads, so the course was pretty speedy until the last mile uphill. I booped my toe pretty significantly before the race, but thought nothing of it. I took my shoes off after the race and saw how swollen and purple and angry it was. A trip to urgent care confirmed it wasn’t broken, but my toe does not look normal 2 months later. Oh well! I had the best time out there, wearing my Adidas Terrex Speed Ultra. I picked them up in January after reading the Believe in the Run review, and I love love love them. They are light-weight, yet I do not feel the rocks under my feet. They are pink and teal, though mine are covered in mud and I’m too lazy to clean them. 10/10 from my wide feet.
DC Frontrunners Pride 5k (June 10) This was a first run back after a week of being quite ill with (not?) covid to kick off Pride Month. I was running it with some of my favorite library gays and my girlfriend, so the only goal was to have fun. I accidentally rubbed against someone at packet pickup and was immediately covered in glitter for the evening. 10/10 will be back every year, and will try and stay awake for the evening dance party next time.
Arbutus Firecracker 10k (July 4) This is the first race I’ve enjoyed the effects of the late May iron infusion. Now I know that during the horrific B&A Trail Race that the vibes were bad inside my body. So! After a spring/early summer of consistent trail running, and my body adequately carrying oxygen, I ate those hills for breakfast. I felt so strong on the hot and hilly course, and closed the last .2 downhill with pizazz. I was only 20 seconds off my old has heck 10k PR. I’m not sure if that says I am stronger on challenging courses, or if a big breakthrough is finally coming. I’ll keep running up that hill to find out.
Books I’m thinking about / recently read:
Black Boy Smile by D. Watkins
Girlhood by Melissa Febos
The Octopus Museum by Brenda Shaughnessy
In between runs, go support your local abortion fund. The organizations have been preparing for years. To quote the indominatable Sherrilyn Ifill, “Remember that we have never seen the America we’ve been fighting for. So no need to be nostalgic. Right on the other side of this unraveling is opportunity. If we keep fighting no matter what, take care of ourselves & each other, stay strategic & principled, & use all our power.”
Have you ever been so sure you’ve done something, that when you come to the realization you did not do it, your world rattles?
I had planned a long weekend in Philadelphia with my favorite communities: writers and runners. AWP was back, and Sunday the Love Run had a celebratory half marathon through the city. Everything I could dream of, right?
The first few days in Philadelphia filled my soul: connecting with new and old writer friends, finally experiencing the punk-rock Tirefire Reading series, writing in the garden of the Rodin museum.
Things started to fall apart at packet pickup Friday afternoon. I was so excited to show my girlfriend the running community, to show her the ridiculous things we do to get hyped. As I tried to locate my bib number, my name was not showing up. So weird, I thought. It must be a glitch, I thought.
Then I considered—I was receiving promotional emails, but did I get a bib number reminder email? As the realization washed over me, I searched my email receipts for registration. I generally register when it first opens (can’t miss those discounts), so it had to be there. Right? It wasn’t. I ask Athlete Information if they have registration today. Nope. It completely closed on Wednesday.
Fighting tears in the convention center hallway (is it even a writing conference if you don’t cry in the convention center?), I’m panic texting my coach and another run friend. What should I do? What are the options? Extremely stubborn, I didn’t want to miss out on a race weekend I prepared for. We find that the B&A Trail Half Marathon still has spots. I text the AWP 2 Hype 2 House 2 Queer chat that I’m leaving that night. I get home, try to calm down and relax with my cats. I’m prepared physically, why should a little stress derail me? I started infusing humor as fast as I could, texting my coach, I should have opened this with I’ve made a huge mistake.
Not to brag or be dramatic, but the half marathon was the worst I have ever felt in a race. Perhaps because of the stress of the previous 48 hours, perhaps because I’ve been struggling with my ferritin and thyroid levels, perhaps because imbalances from years of chronic pain decided to flare in my back—everything was NOT GOOD.
The race didn’t begin that way. I started cruising around 7:45 pace. I was going for it, knowing all my workouts and long runs indicated this would be an easy start to push from there. My plan was to start pushing to bring it down to the 7:30s after the first third. I took my first gel around mile 4.5 and said bye to my friend, she was folding a workout into the race.
I wasn’t feeling bouncy or fresh, but I still felt like I could hold strong for the second half as I approached the turnaround. From years as a swimmer and past races, I knew I didn’t have to feel perfect to be able to dig deep. Around mile 8, my body started to rebel in all the ways: nausea, tightness in my back to the point that I could not drive my legs. All in all, NOT GOOD. Still, I know these things can pass.
I took my last gel around mile 8.5. I gave myself another pep talk. One bad mile wasn’t going to stop me. As I continued, things got worse. Total body pain. Nausea. Heaving. Why couldn’t I at least vomit and get it over with? That’s when I started to panic. The last time I felt this terrible in a race, it was before my first surgery in 2018. This was not a time to relive medical trauma! I turned up my music, asked Ashnikko to give me strength.
I was either slowing down to heave as I ran, or I was stopping to heave along the side of the B&A Trail. With only a few miles to go, I passed some of the Faster Bastards cheering. I told myself to dig deep and felt a surge of adrenaline as I passed them. I can salvage this, I thought.
Shortly after I was off the trail again. They jogged by and asked if I was okay. I said, no, but I’m going to finish. I heave-run-walked my way to the finish, keeping it together enough to cheer on runners passing me, to say hi to people I have only interacted with online.
My final time was around an 8:30 pace, despite some 10 minute miles in there. While I am frustrated, I am so proud of this consistent training block. I stayed mentally strong in workouts. I felt relaxed in long runs. Despite dabbling in running for over a decade, I keep reminding myself that I haven’t truly been able to consistently run until being cleared for sport in August 2020 after my hysterectomy and second excision surgery. I’ve finally had a chance to build. After some rest, I’ll spend the spring and summer finding new limits on the roads and trails with the community. This is a hobby I love, even when it sucks. There are going to be challenging races along the way. Yesterday, I loved seeing friends reach their goals, knowing I will be in that place again.
A note because the pandemic isn’t over: I took a rapid test last night, I’ll take one later in the week, and I’ll wear my mask if there are places I must go.
Sylvia Plath has been swirling my head since writing group. An essay I brought to workshop was giving off Mad Girl’s Love Song vibes, and I am okay with that. I finally choked out some literary prose about chronic illness. I am a mad girl.
Speaking of choking—I didn’t post a blog last month, nor did I submit writing. Both are monthly goals I set for myself. However, those goals are to hold me accountable to consistent writing and revising. Instead of submitting, I spent a weekend in West Virginia, heavily revising and dumping out a few thousand words of the first draft of the above mentioned essay that made it to workshop. The piece finally feels like a breakthrough in prose writing.
I am better at seeing the process steps in writing. It’s like the memes that go around running Instagram—the bits of the iceberg you don’t see before the success. I can say I’m happy with a few thousand words in January. I also excavated a ton of old writing for a revision of my full-length poetry manuscript.
After I run, it’s like I immediately forget everything I’ve accomplished. A little over a week ago, I had a killer workout with my coach in relatively difficult conditions—20 degrees and wind. I ran 2 x 12 minutes comfortably faster than goal half marathon pace within a twelve mile run. Two days later, I was writing panicked recaps in my training log about how tired I was. Of course I was tired. I had a big workout and my body was recovering.
This week, we preemptively planned a day off after a moderate effort at the Baltimore Road Runner’s Club Cupid’s Crush. It was absolute joy through Druid Hill Park. I find joy in sprinting up hills—it must be the dopamine. I highly recommend runners in the DMV area put BRRC races on their calendar. Everyone from other runners to race volunteers encouraged each other in the small race.
Bright morning light reflected on patches of melting ice as we powered up and down the hills. We whispered you got this to each other as our lungs fought. I’ve missed these intimate gatherings. I’m signed up for the BRRC Super Bowl Trail Race this Sunday—maybe I’ll get my act together and post a timely race recap of my first trail race.
I frequently think of a line from Leigh Stein’s collection, DISPATCH FROM THE FUTURE: Life is only too short if you’re having a good time. I want it to feel short, I want to feel a bit breathless and excited.
A good friend and I collaged this week. We were reflecting and planning after a big year leaving our past jobs for new opportunities. I felt compelled to memorialize my meandering thoughts in blog format. They’re a mix of running, creativity, chronic illness—you know, my life.
1. I have missed collaging. Through workshops with Cinder Hypki and making more cards this year, I plan to bring the practice back more frequently in 2022.
2. People will let you down. It’s not your obligation to change them.
3. I like books that can be frustrating. Well, I already knew this, but it was very clear when I read the new Sally Rooney. I kept wanting to scream go to therapy!!
4. I love racing for the comradery, but I am perfectly happy exploring running routes with no races to come.
5. I can paint a house in color.
6. A chronic illness is forever, but it’s not my full identity. I’m still working through this. Now that I’m not in daily pain, I’ve been learning how to manage my symptoms and set boundaries that prevent flare-ups.
7. I can make big changes, even if I can’t project exactly how they will change the future.
8. Calendar invitations are my love language. Send three dates and times, then let’s pick one. I can’t stand the back and forth of “I’m free whenever!” You’re not. I’m not. It’s stressful. Plus, as we’re still in a pandemic, I like to have my social time planned out so I am factoring in time between seeing people.
9. I would like to never feel obligated to sit in a loud bar again. My brain can’t process the background noise and focus on a conversation. Let’s sit outside forever. It’s beautiful anyway.
10. I process through lists and that is just fine. My favorite poems are in lists. Maybe everything is a poem.
I have a half-finished draft about the races I ran over the past two months and grappling with disability as Covid boosters have limited availability—but I have not been able to finish it. If I’ve learned anything from getting an MFA, visiting authors, and participating in workshops, the block means I should flex my creativity in another way and return to the piece later. Perhaps it belongs in a longer form, pitched and submitted for payment. Anyway, call me if you are a literary agent.
Instead, I’ll write about my pandemic hobby: watching horror films. Even though I once wrote in a poem that I watch documentaries instead of horror films, I have always had a soft spot for them. Horror isn’t an escape. Horror is fear at the front of the brain. The dream where you know you are dreaming, but your consciousness is stuck in quicksand.
Or maybe it’s because of memory. My mom and I watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer from the start together as I grew up. I have a special tradition with some friends to pick a horror film the night before a memorial 5k. Whatever the cause, even when I’m uncomfortable, I’m generally comforted by the genre.
In no particular order, I listed all the horror films I have watched since March 2020. Some have annotations, if I was moved to do so. I’m always looking for more, especially filling in the queer cannon, so please recommend any in the comments. Friends and the Internet “best of” lists helped build this.
Us (2019): OH MY GOD. AND THEN THE DANCING WITH THE STARS DANCE THIS YEAR? Cursed (2004) Teeth (2007) Ginger Snaps (2000): This had the vibes I wanted Teeth to have. Parasite (2019): Horror and commentary perfection. The Hills Have Eyes (2006) The Neon Demon (2016) Prom Night (2008) We Summon the Darkness (2020) Jennifer’s Body (2009): How did no one sit me down to watch this before??? Nightbreed (1990) The Evil Dead (1981): Practical effects freak me out more than CGI. Hellraiser (1987): See above. Lyle (2014) Old (2021) The Covenant (2006) Sorry to Bother You (2018): Hulu told me it was horror! Isn’t any movie about capitalism? Martin (1977) Raw (2016): I don’t do gore. This wasn’t even that gory, but wowowow the intensity nearly had me hurling. I still loved the pacing of the film. It’s one of those “where is the horror in this” type of film. The Babysitter (2017): I dug the camp. The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2015) Zombieland: Double Tap (2019) The Invitation (2015) The Strangers (2008): I will literally talk to anyone about why this film was a shift in the horror genre. Girl on the Third Floor (2019): I wanted to see a professional wrestler star in a horror film. Black Christmas (2019): Way better than I expected! Promising Young Woman (2020): I couldn’t watch a movie for weeks after this. It’s everything I wanted from a revenge film. Carmen Maria Machado wrote about it perfectly in How “Promising Young Woman” Refigures the Rape-Revenge Movie.
Books I’m thinking about/recently read: –The Glass Hotel, Emily St. John Mandel (this would be a great atmospheric, slightly spooky film)
With an acute injury or illness, there isn’t the this is your fault judgement that comes with chronic illness. No one says there are demons in your foot if it’s broken. No one says you deserve this. No one says that maybe if you did more yoga, ate kale, or got pregnant, you’d be cured of a broken bone. Rather, the healthcare team sets out with the goal: how do we fix this?
Having a chronic illness is the difference between walking into a doctor’s office and showing that something is visibly broken, versus walking into a doctor’s office with a list of symptoms that are deemed invisible. I’d say the effects of brain fog and pain aren’t invisible, but what do I know, I just live with them.
I’ve talked with quite a few people over the last month about their own endometriosis diagnoses. We’ve talked about what it means, and what they can do, where to find resources. Knowing that I put my story out there for people as a resource, receiving those messages still brings a wave of emotions. I know because I did (do) this to other people in the community too. You reach out to people when the healthcare system fails to give you answers. We’re speaking up at the doctor and being dismissed, so we go to each other.
I had so little information about returning to running after a hysterectomy. If you believe Google, your spine shrinks, you can literally do nothing fun ever again, and you become extremely unattractive overnight. This kind of information is on gynecological websites!! Luckily, I have a knowledgeable pelvic floor physical therapist. She kept me in check—that it would be a long recovery road, but there is no reason I wouldn’t be able to come back stronger.
February running was rough. I was also getting into contortion training, and because I never know my limits, I ended up freaking out my psoas muscles on both sides from overstretching. Every step hurt for most of the month. Every. Single. Step. I was terrified at first, then after figuring out more of what I did to myself (woops) with my orthopedic physical therapist, I accepted that I overdid it and needed to rest. I ran a bit over 60 miles the month of February, going out for short runs to keep moving as I healed. I was told that as long as I felt better after running, this was okay to continue.
March looked much better. Taking it easy worked. I’m so used to never-ending chronic conditions, with little hope. I told a friend in February that I didn’t even know how to address acute injuries anymore after thinking I broke my toe by dropping a glass candle on it (I went to urgent care and it was just badly bruised). The snowiest days overlapped with the worst of the psoas and toe pain, and for a bit I felt like I would have this pain FOREVER. Thank goodness for time. Honestly, I was shocked that rest WORKED.
I felt well enough to time trial the Shamrock 5k on March 13. I had some strong workouts in the bank from January, and 10 months after surgery, I was itching to test myself. I see it as a big moment of personal growth to go out to “race,” knowing it wasn’t going to be a personal record. My run coach, Nick, and I met to warmup, then he paced me. My goal was to go out strong, then keep descending. I managed to do just that on a breezy day on the Carroll Park 800, splitting 7:22, 7:15, 6:57, and 7:11 for the last 0.1. The first 2 miles felt quite controlled, and I fought in the last mile. Having an extremely fast pacer does help, but I had to stay focused on the surprising windy loop without the adrenaline of a race situation.
The in-person Shamrock 5k is notoriously fast. In my age group, the top 3 are all usually under 20 minutes—a virtual prize was not on my mind. Monday after the time trial, I received an email from a colleague that also runs, congratulating me. In a virtual year, I finished third in my age group. I immediately stared minimizing it, saying things like “well this will be the only year I do well at the Shamrock!” Then I stepped back. We are in multiple pandemics. I had major surgery 10 months ago. No matter what, this is an achievement to celebrate during an extremely difficult year. Anyway—as long as I can, I’m working toward faster and consistent running.
Now I’m in the final month of preparing for a half marathon. Again, I am excited and terrified to see what happens, even though I’m thinking of this as a confidence booster before a fall buildup. As I can consistently train because I’m not losing buckets of blood and overcome with full body pain, I keep seeing small improvements every day in pace and recovery. My mindset has changed, therapy is working!
The timing of my last read was perfect too—Meb Keflezighi’s 26 Marathons. He focuses on the training, the process, and running a smart race for the conditions you are in. The joy he feels in running shines throughout the book, and he reminds the reader every page that what matters in running is what you learn about yourself. As races restart and I chase down new goals, I keep thinking about his words: “I learned that giving your best even when you’re not at your best can provide insight into what’s possible when you’re on top of your game.”