For today’s post, I’m combining my two favorite worlds: food AND running.
A question I get asked often is “What fuel do you use for longer runs?” I have two answers.
#1. Blue gatorade mixed with water, and it has to be blue, and it has to be Gatorade. Don’t give me the G2 stuff. Gatorade by itself is TOO sweet for me (and no surprise full of sugar), so I learned to mix with water. I have tried: Gu, Powerade, coconut water (two different brands), an Advocare thing, and lemon-lime gatorade. If you (like me) have autoimmune intestinal probs, try out different fuels BEFORE your race!!! Some things will NOT agree with you, and it’s a solid idea to figure that out before you start your race. No shame in the fuel belt game if you need to bring your own fuel for a half-marathon. You are fuel-belt fabulous. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
#2. Say hello to my little friend:
This also took a lot of trial and error on account of my crappy ulcerative colitis, but these, consumed 1/2 at a time, don’t make me symptomatic at all. I normally take one around mile 8/9 and then again around 11 during a race if I feel like I need it. I have friends who carry grapes, gummy bears- all sorts of stuff. Find what works for you and stick with it! Disclaimer: If you try this while you’re not running, it’s gonna taste salty and weird. Wait until you need it, then give it a shot. My favorite part about these is the packaging, “Pull It!” so there’s no worries about having to find a small tear tab while running. Love these.
And for anyone who doesn’t want to talk about running, here’s the slow-cooker recipe I promised 🙂
Slow-Cooker Lemon Gahhlic Chicken + Potatoes
Chop about 8-10 small potatoes into quarters, layer the slow-cooker with them, adding small slivers of butter on top of them (in total, about 2 tbsp butter- my favorite brand is Smart Balance).
2. Season 4 chicken breast (or two sliced in half if the breasts are thick) with fresh crushed pepper (liberally), oregano (2 tsp), and garlic (4 cloves, minced)
3. Lay the seasoned breasts on top of the chopped potatoes in the slow cooker.
4. Use the juice from two freshly-squeezed lemons and pour juice over chicken and potatoes in slow-cooker. I also like to slice the lemons and leave them on top of the chicken breasts.
^Behold, my very favorite kitchen toy.
Do NOT use the lemon juice in the plastic squeezy thing from the store expecting this to taste stellar. Trust me, you won’t want to take the easy way out when it comes to fresh lemon juice. Evah.
5. Pour 2/3 C organic chicken (or vegetable) broth over chicken and potatoes in slow- cooker.
6. Set cooker to low for six hours or high for three hours. TA-DAHH- Dinnah is served.
I really love slow cooker recipes because you don’t have to worry about them- just set the timer and go on about your day…just don’t forget about them, because that could end in disaster. Let me know what you think of this recipe if you give it a shot!
The question I get asked most often by friends and strangers alike is, “How did you know something was wrong?”
Please don’t use my experience in lieu of a doctor’s professional opinion. If you think something is wrong…go get checked out!
Okay. Here’s my story:
Once upon a time in early Fall at a coffee shop on campus at The University of Texas at Austin in 2012, I began having excruciating stomach cramps. When I say the word excruciating, I mean excruciating. Unbearable. The BEST way I can describe the pain for the sake of being relatable…have you ever had a violent stomach virus? Multiply the frequency of your symptoms to several times a day and night, for weeks. Then you get me.
I excused myself a couple times over the duration of my brief meet-up with a friend at the coffee shop. “Guess I should switch the chai lattes to soy,” I thought to myself.
But the pain and the symptoms weren’t alleviated by omitting dairy. Within weeks even ice chips resulted in pain, followed by 10-15 wind sprints to the bathroom.
X rated version: I knew something was wrong when I noticed that my stools consisted almost entirely of blood, and nothing seemed to offer even a hint of relief (not even drinking imodium from a straw…not recommended, by the way).
About a week and a half later, I made an appointment with University Health Services; they accommodated me quickly when I described my symptoms. They prescribed me high-powered antibiotics, which didn’t phase my symptoms. “Come back in 8 days for a follow-up.” I noticed that I had already lost twelve pounds when I weighed in with the nurse before my appointment.
I found a local gastroenterologist, without a referral from a professional. Something had to be resolved fast.
At the time I would wake up two hours before class began (after a night of restlessness because of constant stomach cramps and running to the bathroom), to ensure that I would arrive to class in time, allotting plenty of time for bathroom stops in the buildings on my way to class until I was finally able to make it to my class. I received permission from my professors to record their lectures during this time, because I would have to sneak out of class three or four times to be sick. This went on for a few weeks.
During my first appointment with the gastroenterologist, he scheduled a colonoscopy for the next day, and so began my life of poking, prodding, stool samples, blood samples, and biopsies. The prep juice wasn’t bad because I was pretty clear from shitting thirty times a day…still not entirely sure what the big fuss over colonoscopies is all about.
After my colonoscopy the doctor read my diagnosis, “You have moderate to severe ulcerative colitis. There’s no cure, but there are treatment options. You’ll be monitoring this diseasefor the rest of your life.”
Honestly, I was pretty certain that I was dying of cancer. When I was diagnosed, almost three weeks beyond my very first noticeable symptom at the coffee shop, I had lost twenty-five pounds. I looked like a bag of bones. I was weirdly relieved to have “ulcerative colitis” as a diagnosis. Having answers makes all the difference.
(During this time I got recruited by Abercrombie model scouts on campus for a live audition. They were quickly educated…thanks to the prednisone and my lack of sleep.)
All that I had heard about “ulcerative colitis” was a brief overview in a pharmacology course, and I knew that Crohn’s was its cousin, both under the umbrella of Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD)…not exactly enough for me to understand what the heck the doc was talking about. He explained that my immune system was hyperactive, recognizing even food as a foreign substance that needed to be expelled immediately. Not cool, immune system. Not cool.
My body was rebelling against my colon. Why? Could be genetics, or the environment (e.g. toxins, antibiotics altering gut bacteria), or an interaction between the two.
“What can I eat?”
“Eat whatever you want. Since you’re a bit underweight, drink as much dark beer as you want. Eat burgers.”
^ Never made sense to me. UC is an autoimmune digestive disease in my gut, where most of the immune system is located, and I’m being told to eat whatever I want? Too good to be true. I knew immediately that dairy and beef physically hurt to eat, so I eliminated those. Next to go was processed meats and fast food, because no way are those beneficial. To my surprise there were still plenty of good options to eat, despite being in college and on a budget. Good food didn’t have to be expensive. I began researching which foods to eat to help with inflammation, since UC is an inflammatory disease, and I tried to eat more of those helpful foods: leafy greens, grilled fish, lean meats, and blueberries became my go-tos. And so began my interest in nutrition. I watched it help me, change me, and I dreamed of how it could help the people I love. Present day Stacey is in school again pursuing a dietetics degree.
After my scope, the doc handed me a paper folder full of info pamphlets and immediately prescribed me an IV biologic & immunosuppressant: Remicade. MANY people ask, “Why did you decide to be on such a high octane medication?” At the time I didn’t feel a like I had much of a choice. Looking back, I still would’ve agreed to such aggressive treatment, because I felt (and looked) like I was actually dying. It’s different for everyone, but for me it was serious at the time. I mean. I LOST OVER 25 POUNDS IN THREE WEEKS, PEOPLE.
I remember my first infusion, walking into a dimly lit infusion suite with recliners bordering the walls, each with a patient hooked up to an IV pole. Some were asleep, others read books, flipped through their phones, and a few watched HGTV buzzing in the background on the televisions. Not all the patients had Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis, some had rheumatoid arthritis, MS, and a host of other autoimmune conditions. This was the first time I realized that my life would not be the normal I remembered. I needed medication from an IV so I could live life like I remembered living. Weird.
Overnight, I felt like I had gone from being a normal, healthy, social college student to a smaller, weaker shell of myself: spending more time alienated by my symptoms; a more vulnerable person, more medicated, with less autonomy over my own health. I bought a pill pack from the pharmacy store that looked like the one my grandmother carried in her oversized old-lady purse, so I could keep up with my new lifestyle.
In addition, I was prescribed pain and sleeping aids (which I never took), along with a hefty dose of Prednisone, a corticosteroid. Jesus and steroids saved my life, and I honestly believe that. Prednisone was the only oral medication that seemed to ever work.
But I hated it.
Steroids were great in college, because I felt very energetic (almost jittery) while taking Prednisone, so even on little sleep I was able to get a lot accomplished. However, the mood swings made me feel like a crazy pants to say the very least, so I avoid Prednisone at all costs today. I also like to sleep…and I have the hardest time sleeping when I’m on the ‘roids (disclaimer: not the same anabolic steroids that give you muscles…womp womp)
LIFE AFTER DIAGNOSIS
Slowly but surely, my energy levels began to creep back up to normal. I got my life back. Sure, I had to make some adjustments here and there (still learning), but heyyy I’m alive!
I graduated with a pretty decent GPA, even with a hospital stay, despite my family’s pleading for me to take a medical leave of absence from college. I never asked for a project deadline extension. I honestly look back on this time in life and think, “How?” But I was in survivor mode. Don’t say “I could never.” You could. And you would.
I got into the working world, took some time to get a Crohn’s diagnosis, had a doc switch diagnosis back to “ulcerative colitis”, changed shifts, changed jobs, conquered anxiety, and got to know myself really well. Wasn’t glamorous, and wasn’t what I anticipated, but it’s okay! I’m okay.
LEARNING TO COPE 1. Haters Gonna Hate
People will criticize you whether or not it’s warranted. I have been criticized for being a “pill popper”; for “taking the easy way out” with the infusion (that one is beyond me); for being “too stressed”; for not taking a medical leave of absence from college; for drinking beer; for the way I eat. People don’t mean to be as nasty as they can be sometimes; they simply don’t know your situation. I control as much as I can with diet, but I’m also human and sometimes I slip up or make conscious decisions to indulge. The meds help where nutrition cannot for me. My dream is to be 100% in remission with diet, but I’m not there yet. I can’t advise YOU if you were recently diagnosed on which course of action you should take. This disease is different for everyone. What works for one person may NOT work for another. It’s all about figuring out what works for YOU until there’s a cure. But shake off the negativity. You’re living with this- YOU are the badass.
2. Keep your people close
There will be people in your life who are with you during your diagnosis, and I don’t just mean the people who happen to be around. Who is WITH you? Who is there keeping you strong? These are the people you want around forever. For me that’s my sister, my college roommates, and my Zack. Story time 2.0:
One night in my apartment that I shared with friends, I was THE most physically ill I had been in my life, sick from both ends for hours and hours (pretty, huh?). I called Zack and begged him to come over. He spent the entire night on the phone with pharmacists, arguing with my doctor about medications, all while I slept on the bathroom floor in between being sick. Finally, around 4am, after much harassing Zack managed to get me some anti-nausea meds. My gawsh, the guy is a saint.
He fought with me. He went to bat for me. He never judged. He didn’t do good things for reward. He was just there, beside me, gutting it out with me. And so were my roommates. The BEST people I know.
I promised myself that if I ever had the energy again to move, then I would. Sounds overly emo, I know. But y’all. I really struggled with weakness for so long. So my roommate and I did this thing ^. Not pictured: Roommate Becca, still one of my greatest friends, probably drinking a mimosa at the finish while snapping this photo.
KEEP YA PEOPLE CLOSE.
3.It gets better
There will be times when you think, “TF HAPPENED? I was doing so good! Where’d these symptoms come from?” This will pass. It will get better. You will prevail. You’ll come out stronger with every flare. You’ll live to tell about it, and you’ll develop a pretty damn good sense of humor from it, too.
4. Find your silver lining
There may be days when you shit yourself in your car while in traffic. It’s okay to cry about it, but then try to find some humor in that. When you’re in a flare and EVERYTHING makes you sick, think about all the amazing Netflix you’ll be able to watch. “I won’t be able to do this when I’m better.” Think about all the food you CAN eat. If none of those options work, recognize how this has changed your life. I wasn’t interested at all in nutrition before this disease, and now it is my life. I sho wasn’t going to run before UC, and now it’s my hobby.
5. You’re still you
You’re still you, but you’re more relatable. You’ve seen struggling, and SO.MANY.PEOPLE. are struggling. You’ve seen sickness, and SO.MANY.PEOPLE. are sick. You’ve seen recovery, and people NEED to find their strength to recover. Help them find it. See this as a weird superpower. This disease doesn’t define you, but if you let it, it will make you a better, bigger, badder, stronger, gassier(?) version of you. You’re still you, only better.
Please let me know how any unexpected life situations have changed YOUR life! I’m with you. Solidarity!
Keep moving forward 🙂
OH! And have a great Monday! There is such a thing, I promise.
Before my first half marathon, a 5K in college was my max distance race.
And I was slow.
There were participants right behind beside me drinking beer on the course.
So if you’re thinking, “I really want to do a half-marathon, but I have only ever ran one mile, and it was the one required for junior high P.E. class.”
Friend, this post is for YOU.
Congrats on registering (or considering registering) for a half-marathon! I love half-marathon weekends, and nothing makes me more excited and motivated than clicking that “register” button.
YOU. WILL. NOT. REGRET. IT.
Here’s a few tips from my ever-growing bag of tricks that I learned after running my first half-marathon (pictured above at the finish)
1. Shoes. I’ve said this before, but get cha some good running shoes! Go to a running store and let the experts fit you for the shoe that best suits your stride- you won’t regret it. You WILL regret thinking that your shoes fit when actually they don’t and your toenails begin to turn unpleasant colors. Dark blue toenails aren’t cute; They’re scary and your friends will be concerned for your toes of many colors.
2. Hydration.Note: hydration is NOT all water consumption. Hydration is actually having the proper amount of electrolyte balance to keep your body going. On short runs, I always take water with me. I honestly can’t train myself out of it (maybe I haven’t tried hard enough?). On long runs, I take a mix of blue gatorade with water in a sexy little fuel belt. Figuring out which hydration method works for you is key. Try different methods like coconut water, powerade, gu, energy gels. It’s also important to hydrate the day before, especially on long runs.
3. Developing a training plan and stick with it. B-E Consistent. For me, this means laying my running clothes across the room next to my alarm clock so I have no excuse to say no.
4. Cross-train. This is the best way to prevent injury. Add weights, and work on those abs and glutes. A lot of running injuries are caused from weak or tight glutes and abs. Planks are your new best friend. (other ideas for cross-training: CrossFit, yoga, barre, kickboxing, cycling, pilates…basically any movement that’s not running)
5. Keep going. If you think “when will this enddddd” then keep going. Once you’re out of your funk later and reflecting on your run, you’ll be bummed that you didn’t pick up your feet and keep it up. Your mind will quit LONG before your body will. Don’t let your mind fool you. YOU are the boss. Keep moving.
And on a similar note…
I know I say it all the time, but keep moving forward. Just because you reached your goal (distance, speed, finish line, or whatever) doesn’t mean that you’ve reached the end of your goals. Don’t get complacent! The world needs your energy. <- That sounded incredibly hippy and peace and love, but you get me. Keep on keepin’ on!
HAVE FUN! Just go running. It’s actually supposed to be hard. Love the process.
P.S. ASK QUESTIONS! Runners are generally happy people, and I’m sure someone would be happy to help out if you have any questions. OR if you don’t have a crazy runner friend, ask me!
For those of you who don’t know, I was diagnosed with moderate to severe ulcerative colitis in 2012, the year before my college graduation. I had never heard of ulcerative colitis until my diagnosis. I remember thinking, “Thank God- it’s not cancer.” Because after two-three hellacious weeks of losing over 25 pounds and not recognizing what the heck was happening to my body, I was sure that it was something drastic.
I ignored people, even some who I loved, pleading with me to take a medical leave of absence; my GPA even increased during this time, probably because: 1. I was quarantined to my house with no social life since I was shitting 30 times a day, and 2. I was determined to prove that my limitations weren’t limiting me.
I remember the doctor explaining “there’s no cure, but it is treatable,” and thinking “Well, why bother telling me there’s not a cure if it’s treatable?” But I know now that what he meant was, “We’re going to try a lot of different medications, and see how you respond. Over time, they may lose efficacy, and you’re going to have to try new meds. Some of these medications may require lifestyle adjustments, like having to go to the hospital every few weeks for an infusion for the rest of your life. You’ll try dietary adjustments. You may feel anxious and face sleepless nights; you may become a person you don’t recognize; you’ll lose your hair and have weight fluctuations, but you’ll gain the best kind of people for friends. You’ll have a struggling social life, but you’ll adjust. Each and every time, you’ll overcome, and you’ll be stronger for it.”
^That’s what he implied. Honestly, it’s taken me years to figure out that this is a lifelong thing. Sometimes I still don’t get it.
That year of college was memorable. I recall not knowing if I’d have the energy to make it up the stairs to class. I promised myself that if I had the ability to move again, then I would.
That following May in 2013, my roommate and I completed a sprint triathlon.
Then I graduated, moved out into the real world, found a job, and got angry.
I started researching. I realized that I wasn’t alone in this unglamorous, poop struggle, and not many people talk about it (not victim-blaming. It’s not a sexy disease).There’s over a million people in America alone with this disease…but there’s no cure. Absurd. I was angry that there weren’t cures. I was angry that I was going to have to deal with rollercoaster flares. I was just…angry.
So I thought, “I think I’ll go for a run.” Because honestly, I’m rarely angry. I remember being angry and upset only a handful times growing up, and I went running, huffing and puffing my way around the neighborhood each time.
But this time was different. I wanted to prove to myself that I was tough, despite my weakness. I wanted to push against my limitations, and I wanted to feel strong. I needed to know that I was not damaged goods, and I wasn’t the diagnosis code on a medical chart, but that I was even more capable than ever before in my life.
My way of dealing was running.
Around my angry/I want to feel better and make some trouble on behalf of others/time of chronic badassery, I found Team Challenge and trained for a half-marathon while fundraising for cures to ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease- and I channeled my anger into some productivity.
And today I keep running.
If you want me to be real with you, I took a break from October until this month…zero runs, because I physically and mentally couldn’t, because of a nasty flare that has required time, energy, and commitment to dietary adjustments and more meds to shake me outta my funk. I haven’t felt like me…
I’ve spent days in bed until nearly afternoon. I’ll drop Zack off at work, go to bed, and then pick him up after a day asleep, only to go back to sleep. He has been the real slim shady through all of this.
And it’s okay. Struggles are temporary.
Finally, my meds have started working, my dietary adjustments began healing my gut, things started clicking, and the wheels started turning.
Tonight I ran two miles without stopping. Two miles of up and over hills, around neighborhood corners, and hopping over sidewalk cracks, and I feel alive. I can feel my lungs struggling to get their rhythm, and I can feel my legs swinging happily beneath me while my feet pound the pavement, and I’m thankful for my 90’s playlist in my ears and the wind through my hair.
(Shoutout to Mother Nature for allowing me to run with my hair DOWN today- freedom!)
In short, I run because I can and for me, that is the greatest reason of all. I don’t think about ulcerative colitis. All I think about is making it to the next light pole, around the bend. And suddenly I’m there, and I keep going. I run because I get to keep going, past my limitations and beyond sickness.
Because I can :).
Why do you run?
P.S. When I can get a bit more organized, I’m thinking of making a couch to half-marathon training list with the help of one of my running coach friends.
A UC patient from the couch to a half-marathon…or two or three
Today started off with a phone call from my neighbor.
“Are you Jaxon’s owner? He’s in my living room.”
Silly me-thinking we had a morning routine, especially on gorgeous days like these.
Jaxon normally likes to do his business and then sunbathe when it’s a warmer day, just for about ten or twenty minutes, and then he comes to the back door when he’s ready to come back inside. But today, he decided that he needed to explore beyond his monstrous back yard and travel WAY down the street to the neighbor’s house. Thank goodness for dog tags.
Also thank goodness for friendly neighbors, because I’d be lost without my Jax. 😦
Last night’s run was slow, but it was good. I bought these New Balance shoes awhile back, because they felt so good when I got fitted for them, and I do like them. But my all time faves are still my Brooks Launch 3’s. I also can’t do a run without water. It doesn’t matter if it’s only two or three miles- girl needs her H2O. I’ve tried to train myself out of it, but it’s not worth it to me.
My absolute favorite part of running is exploring, and since I’m in a new town in a new state, each run has taken me on a new adventure.
I felt like I was trespassing here, so I didn’t cross the bridge. Maybe that makes me less adventurous than I thought? Oh well.
Check out that sky magic!
When I got home, I spent some time planking and doing some light abs. I was short on time, but I felt accomplished. It’s so, so tough to get back into movement sometimes…
But it’ll be worth it; it always is.
Reminder: If you’re feeling sluggish and heavy on your runs, push through. Sometimes Most of the time, the first couple of miles are the hardest. It feels like you’re learning to ride a bike without training wheels for the first time, and your feet feel heavy, and your legs feel uncoordinated, and your breathing feels all off. Just keep going. Your body will find its rhythym, and soon enough you’ll forget how uncomfortable you were.
Then our friends picked us up for “burger night”. There’s a place in town that has half-price burgers on Wednesdays, and we have gone religiously for the past three weeks.
I always get a chicken breast with avocado and sweet potato fries. This is my favorite beer currently, and if you’re a fan of sours, you’ll love it too. <- sounds like I know what I’m talking about, but really I have no idea. I just know that this is “yummy”.
And today’s breakfast smoothie snack was really just too good not to share, so here’s a “pick-me-up smoothie”.
I know you’re probably like, “This girl loves the crap outta some smoothies.” <- Not untrue, but I am also taking a protein prescription from my doc to help my immune system, and I have found this has been the easiest way to hide it in a breakfast snack. Normally, I’d scramble myself eggs or make an omelet for breakfast…but since life has brought me here for now, a recipe:
Pick-me-up Morning Smoothie
-1/2 cup coffee
-1/2 frozen banana
-1 cup (lactose free yogurt for Low FODMAP), or yogurt of choice
-1 handful of greens
-2 tbsp pb
-dash of cinnamon
-1 scoop chocolate Vega Sport protein (1/2 scoop if Low FODMAP)
-1 C ice (add this last if the coffee you’re using is still hot)
Blend, serve, and enjoy 🙂
Pro-tip: Top with 1/4 C granola, and thank me later.
* you’ll notice that I like my smoothies THICK, because I like to eat them with a spoon, so it feels like I’m EATING. Feel free to add more yogurt and ice to make it creamier, or use less ice than I recommended to make it more watery, depending on your preference.
-1.5-2lbs of boneless, skinless chicken breast (mine was frozen, and that was fine!)
-2 large Idaho potatoes OR 4 new potatoes, diced with skin on (I used Idaho potatoes because it’s what was in the pantry, but I think new potatoes would be even better)
-2 tbsp of garlic-infused olive oil
-2 large lemons, juiced
-1/2 tbsp rosemary
-1/2 tbsp oregano
-dash of black pepper
Mix olive oil, fresh lemon juice (NOTE: don’t use the lemon juice that comes in the crappy plastic lemon and expect this to taste just as good), rosemary, oregano, and black pepper. Pour about 3/4 over chicken in slow-cooker, and pour the rest over the diced potatoes layered on top of the chicken. Close slow-cooker and set to high for four hours, or low for 6-8 hours.
If you want to make this and you’re not following low FODMAP, feel free to add minced garlic and some diced onion to this recipe! Very aromatic, and you’ll come home from work feelin’ 50 shades of accomplished!
This could also be layered with green beans and be delicious. I steamed some broccoli separately, and it made for an easy meal.
I intend to make some chicken salad with the leftover chicken. mmm.
Let me know if you try this recipe! Feel free to tweak it! Confession: I have a *hard* time measuring ingredients. I’m more of a pinch and pour kind of cook, so if you feel like it needs more or less of something, make it your own! It’s YOUR kitchen! Go crazy.