8 Simple Rules for the Aspiring Marathoner, as Told by a New York City Marathon Finisher

8 Simple Rules for the Aspiring Marathoner, as Told by a New York City Marathon Finisher

Hi, Friends! Hope y’all are having a wonderful week.

Today’s post is guest-written my friend and fellow UC warrior, Lizzy! She’s a recent first-time marathoner, and in case you were thinking about signing up for 26.2 miles, you get to hear firsthand advice and race recaps from a finisher of the New York City [freakin] Marathon today! So from one friend to another, here’s Lizzy :).

Oh- and if you can’t get enough of her, be sure to check out her blog HERE!

Hello, Internet Friends! My name is Lizzy, and I ran the New York City Marathon on November 5th. What?! It still feels so crazy whenever I say that out loud. I’m comin’ atcha today with my experience, things I learned, and key takeaways for those of you crazy enough to consider doing 26.2.  Hopefully I can give y’all a little bit of a better idea about what to expect when training for a full marathon.  Let’s dive in, shall we?

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1. Why did you decide to run the NYC Marathon? 

One of the biggest responses I faced when telling people I just wanted to do a full marathon (knowing I’m a slower runner) was “Well, why even run a marathon if you’re going to be out on the course for that long?” Fair enough. I’m a slow-poke runner.  But, I actually chose to do the race for a special reason, that had nothing to do with my love for running.  In 2014 I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. The diagnosis came after almost a year of questions, miserable symptoms, an incorrect Crohn’s Disease diagnosis, and four different doctors and specialists. Stacey shares a similar diagnosis to me, which is how we met originally. Getting diagnosed with a form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease is really tough on a number of levels, but one of the hardest pieces is it’s effects on your physical ability and energy. When you are flaring, you have close to zero energy. It is so, so hard to bring yourself to do anything physically challenging because your body is working so hard to keep itself healthy. I did not choose to run a marathon because I thought it would be a *fun* challenge. I chose to run a marathon to prove to myself that UC will not limit me in every aspect of my life.  This is why I originally started running 3 years ago; to show UC who’s boss.  The NYC Marathon was offered as a race through the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation’s Team Challenge program—where you fundraise for the Foundation and train for a marathon at the same time. I’ve done several half marathons with this organization before and they are a BLAST.  This felt like the perfect way to tackle my first 26.2!  I signed up and immediately hyperventilated.  I felt like I’d bit off way more than I could chew!

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2. What did your training schedule look like, and how long did you train? 

My training officially started in June of this year. I ran three days a week, cross-trained twice a week, did strength training one day a week, and took one solid rest day.  There are so many different training plans to follow, and I felt like three days of running was plenty for me.  My cross training consisted of low-impact activities (I usually flip-flopped between swimming/aqua jogging, the elliptical, and spinning), while my strength training was more focused on full-body movements that built up my core and lower body muscles.  For some context: I was returning to running after an injury I sustained last fall—so I needed the extra days of cross-training to make sure I didn’t re-injure myself. Thank goodness for my physical therapist. 

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3. What was the most difficult part of your training? 

The training itself was really, really tough. I felt like I turned down a lot of opportunities over the summer because I was so focused on my training schedule. Then, to add another layer to the crazy, I auditioned and got a part in a musical that was occurring in mid-November. Add weeknight rehearsals on top of marathon training, and I felt like I hadn’t seen my friends or live-in boyfriend in three months. Ack! The time-suck is easily the worst part of marathon training. You have to mindfully plan your time, and this can be kind of a buzz-kill. Spontaneity wasn’t something I could really afford myself this summer and fall. Training is really a part-time job. 

4. What were you most nervous about? Advice?

The day of the race was next-level. I was so, so nervous.  There was a lot of excitement, too. But mostly nerves. I knew I needed to trust my training, but I was feeling a bit discouraged because of what my time goal was. I wanted to finish around the six-hour mark. Listening to others at the start who’s goals were two hours shorter than mine was tough, I won’t lie to you. It messes with your head a bit and made me wonder if I was really cut out to do this.  But, I was excited to deliver a big “eff you” to Ulcerative Colitis and prove to myself that I could finish.  I’m happy I went in with that attitude, because the race exceeded my expectations. The crowds were so supportive, and it didn’t matter that I was running with the six-hour pacer. There were so many of us in the back of the pack! I wish that I had seen more stories about slower runners before I attempted this—there are a lot of us!  The energy was infectious and for the first 19 miles, it didn’t matter how slow or fast I was. I fed off the New York energy and felt like a total rockstar. Running these larger races can do that to you.  It also helped to see family and friends on the course. I would absolutely recommend bringing a hype squad with you, especially for your first race. 

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My mom and her sign on the course!

5. What was your least favorite part of the marathon? Best part?

I started to have a really tough time right after mile 19. For whatever reason, my hip gave out. I had done all my training runs, I felt healthy going in—it just goes to show that sometimes things don’t go as planned.  I tried to run a little bit, but I ended up having to slow down to a full walk (I had been doing a walk/run interval prior to slowing down) and that was really, really disheartening. It slowed my time down significantly, and put me finishing about 45 minutes after I thought I would. The last 7 miles were the worst for me mentally. After doing so well, having to slow down just as you’re about to hit the wall was not a fun feeling and I’m not going to lie—it was a struggle.  There were many tears and I considered just giving up.  But, all of this emotion was followed by one of my favorite parts of the whole race—at mile 22 a very nice lady in the Bronx offered me a slice of cheese pizza. It was exactly what I needed, and made me smile. I was able to stay positive for rest of the race. 

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6. Mental or physical- which did you rely on the most for this race?

What everyone says about the mental game of the marathon is true. It doesn’t matter how slow or fast you are, the most important thing is believing you can do this.  I bawled when I crossed the finish line. Physically, I was so tired. Mentally, I was spent. It was such a mix of relief/exhaustion/frustration/elation; it took me a while to fully process what I felt after finishing.  I was so glad to have finished, to have done it, to have shown my body that I could do it. No matter how hard it was, I did it.  UC limits me in a lot of ways, but it didn’t keep me from finishing my first marathon. And for that I was grateful.

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Me right after I finished, post-cry sesh!

7. Did you have a finish time goal in mind? If so, did you meet it?

Try to not have a set finish time in mind. Take it from someone who was told this—it is so, so hard to not go into something like this with a time goal. I had one, and I so wish I hadn’t. I think if I had gone in with the ONLY goal of finishing, I wouldn’t have beat myself up so much after I had to start walking at mile 19. I finished an effing marathon, and my concern for those last 7 miles wasn’t finishing—it was finishing quicker. That wasn’t fair to me, my emotional state, or my body at that point in the race. My biggest regret with this race is that I didn’t just try to enjoy the last couple of miles. I was positive, sure, but I was so anxious.  Besides the nice lady offering me pizza, I don’t remember a lot from the last 7 miles. I wish I had.

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THE BLING!

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8. What’s the best advice you can give to someone thinking of running a marathon? 

For those of you who are thinking of doing this, I have three pieces of advice: train well, stay healthy, and for the love of all that is holy, try not to go into your first race with an exact finish time in mind.  Train well so you feel confident going into the race. It’s ok to miss a run every now and then—I missed a long run about a month before my race and had to shorten it because of a bad cold.  This leads to my next piece of advice-STAY HEALTHY. You are not doing your training a favor if you run with the flu. Give your body a break. You know what’s best for you. I’m glad I shortened that longer run with a cold, because I was able to crush my 20-mile training run the following weekend since I wasn’t sick. 

Give yourself lots and lots of grace while training for a marathon. LOTS AND LOTS OF GRACE. This is a massive undertaking. Surround yourself by people who support you and encourage you. Make sure you take your full rest day each week.  When that’s all said and done, ENJOY THE HECK out of the race and wear your medal for as long as physically possible. I’ve carried mine with me the last week because I’m so proud of myself. Wear your finisher’s gear. Own that pride. You just finished a flippin’ marathon! Will I do another one? Heck yes. But for now, a half marathon is still my favorite distance, and I’m going to give myself a break. I want to focus on staying healthy with UC. I also want to treat myself to a big ole’ plate of cheese fries. Priorities.

-Lizzy

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HUGE shoutout to Lizzy, for not only taking the time to write this post, but also for making marathons sound far less intimidating and attainable, even for us mere mortal slow-pokes who just wanna make a difference. You are an actual badass.

And now, I’ll dream of that mile 22 New York style pizza all the live-long day…

 

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Sister Trip 2017 Recap

Hope you had a lovely weekend 🙂

In an attempt to not completely procrastinate, this blog post is a Sister Trip recap from last weekend: Northern Virginia Wine Country and Washington, D.C.

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Every year since 2015 we take a “Sister Trip”, just the two of us (woo-hoo three trips and counting!). In 2015 we went to Napa Valley, California while I ran the Napa to Sonoma Wine Country Half. Then last year we went to Charleston, South Carolina- our favorite trip to date, Lindsay’s choice. And last week we took this year’s trip, also situated around another Destination Race: Virginia Wine Country Half-Marathon (my choice again-see a theme?). It’s a fun excuse to get together in a fun place since we don’t live near each other any more, and it’s always a good time.

We began our United Flight, Basic Economy level with ONE single personal item (not even a carry-on) due to our limited space of conveniently being assigned the last seats on the plan, so we fit EVERYTHING into a backpack each. We miraculously made it back home with our souvenirs, too.  I honestly have never packed so light in my life…and I’m a little embarrassed by that.

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We picked up our car in the passenger pick-up line that we rented from Turo- it’s an app that allows you to rent cars owned by locals at their own discretion. Such a fun, easy experience! And it was slightly cheaper than renting a car. Then we drove to downtown D.C. and ate crab cakes and fruit at Old Ebbitt Grill at the bar- so good!

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With satisfied appetites and happy hearts we walked to the White House and, to our surprise, we were able to get right up close to the lawn without security barricades. The crowds weren’t bad either!

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Next was the beautiful Jefferson Memorial. I excitedly called Zack to tell him how thrilled I was to see one of my favorite historical quotes engraved in one of the giant walls, “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal…” He was quick to remind me about Jefferson’s owning slaves/having an affair with slave Sally Hemings, which basically served as a grave reminder not to romanticize people…which is hard not to do when you’re standing inside a giant monument erected in their honor. But I digress.

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Next was patriotic popsicles, because we are children. Then we drove off to the race expo in Leesburg to pick up my bib number and race shirt.

Finally, we made it to our AirBnB which was more enchanted than I could’ve dreamed up. Meet our greeters, Brandy and Whiskey:

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And our cozy cabin

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Complete with entertainment

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As an IBD patient, I appreciated this ^.

We ended the night early after carbo-loading at a local Italian restaurant. The next morning was an early one for race day, but I wasn’t tired after sleeping nine hours.

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^Morning view near the starting line at Doukenie Winery. Lindsay dropped me off near here. I loved the views!

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The race was overcast and in the upper-seventies, perfect weather!

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Girl YAS- LOOK at that ponytail action

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Best part of the day.

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^Best part of the day 2.0

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Followed by dinner at Finn Thai and [another] early bedtime.

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The next day we went into D.C. for some quality American tourism…

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…and paid our respects to Texas veterans at the WWII memorial…

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…and visited Honest Abe (worth the walk and climbing the steps and the heat).

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We chewed on lemon Italian Ice as we sat in the grass of the National Lawn listening to peaceful protesters, then headed to find lunch.

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^ Hamilton’s! I LOVED this place. My turkey burger was amazing, and so were Lindsay’s California rolls and shrimp tempura.

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Next we went to the Holocaust Museum, a place I’ve wanted to visit since reading “Night” by Elie Wiesel in junior high school. This place shook me to my core, and I was struck by how subtle, gradual-changing political agendas gave rise to hatred. The world allowed this hatred to perpetuate by its lack of opposition and ever-increasing fear of peoples’ differences in the place of tolerance and compassion. It was so gradual and so real. I will never be the same after this museum. Never stop speaking up for people around you who are persecuted. Support others, because they need you.

We ended the day on a light-hearted note at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, which was really TOO COOL. HOW can they fit so many planes INDOORS?

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That night at our AirBnB we drank local wines and ate snacks on our hosts’ patio of their house until the wee hours of the morning- I felt like we were old friends, and I loved their company.

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And that about wraps up our journey. We had a turbulent flight back to Texas where we promptly stuffed our faces with Mexican food and guac upon our arrival.

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Then Jaxon and I headed back to Oklahoma for another work week- he’s a great little traveler. Honestly, such a FUN weekend, and we can’t wait to return to Norther Virginia- we couldn’t get over how GREEN all the scenery was this time of year. We are so thankful to have experienced Virginia’s Wine Country AND D.C. What a cool little time.

Hope your Monday is better than most!

-Stacey


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Race Recap: Virginia Wine Country Half-Marathon

Happy Global Running Day! I was a little sad there wasn’t a SnapChat filter to celebrate this fun day, but that’s okay.

In honor of Global Running Day, I’m hittin’ you with a little race recap from this past weekend. Lindsay and I go on a “Sister Trip” every year, and this year’s was Northern Virginia and Washington D.C., conveniently planned around the Virginia Wine Country Half-Marathon (my idea)- But more on Sister Trip next post.

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This past Saturday I woke up at 5:30, and I made conscious effort not to think about losing an hour of sleep by waking up in East Coast time. On a very positive note, I had zero symptoms before this race (remission is still bliss). The sun also rose with me, and by the time we were ready to leave the house at 6am the sky was colorful and bright.

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Lindsay dropped me off near the start at Doukenie Winery and headed back home to sleep (really, y’all. The girl loves her sleep and has no shame). I felt weird being alone in the corral to start without knowing anyone, and most of the runners seemed to be locals. I missed running with my Team Challenge people, but I listened to my music and stretched and all was right in the world. The weather was just barely under 60 degrees at the start- just the way I like it. The race kicked off a few minutes after seven (maybe around 7:10?).

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Around mile six I thought of a new strategy, “I think I’ll only run downhill.” We don’t  have hills like Virginia Wine Country where I live…and if I’m being 100% honest…I did zero long runs before this race. Honestly the one of the dumber decisions I’ve made, and I’m lucky I didn’t walk away injured. I know better. Kids, don’t try this at home. 

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The course was beautiful, but miles 6-10ish were all gravel/dirt and rolling hills through a heavily shaded area, which was a challenge for running. I loved the scenery and tried to focus on being present, feeling pain where it hurt, listening to the sound of my feet swinging beneath me, enjoying the view, breathing in the cool wind, being happy, and loving this time walking/running/trotting through Virginia.

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Even though running by myself sounds like a bummer, I appreciated the solitude.  I was exploring new places all by myself, and it was a fun experience.

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There were many horse stables along the route, and I wished I would’ve gotten a picture! “Horse and wine country” didn’t disappoint!

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At one point I rounded a corner and saw this little church. I couldn’t get over how enchanted it looked!

I actually purchased the race photos from this race, for obvious reasons. I’m a morning person, clearly.

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This race had more water stations than any other race I’ve finished. I’m not actually sure if that’s true, but it definitely felt like it. I didn’t run out of my fuel belt gatorade/water mixture until just after mile 12, which is a new record for me.

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At mile 12 I heard someone cheering my name- turns out it was Hope, a fellow Crohnie on the run and instafriend who I never got to officially “meet” but it was so encouraging to know someone was rooting for me to finish! I WAS STRUGGLIN’ (hi I think I’ll train properly for the next one).

Lindsay was at the finish line, texting me warnings about one final hill that separated me from the finish. I carried my empty water bottles like maracas, just waiting for that finish line fiesta.

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When I saw Lindsay I yelled, “Help!” and she ran through the finish with me for the last few strides up and over the hill…because that’s what sisters are for :). What a fun moment!

And then, just like that, it was over and time to celebrate!

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Destination Races always have the COOLEST medals! My medal from Napa is a wine cork opener, and this one had a spot to hold your wine glass- purposeful and humorous, my favorite combination.

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Then we went to the Wine and Music Festival on the grounds of Doukenie Winery. The lines for wine tasting were quite long, and I had already made the grave mistake of purchasing a breakfast burrito in a New England state (no offense intended, but that was not a burrito with jalapeño chorizo, I assure you). So we bought a bottle of wine from a local winery to drink by the pond.

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Bliss .

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My goal of this race was to enjoy it and to finish- and that I did. I didn’t run my nike app, and I didn’t wear a garmin to record my time. I simply trotted along in a new place in a sea of unfamiliar places, and it was truly such fun.

Race days are some of my favorite days, all thanks to memories like these. Races only last a couple of hours, but the memories are enough to satisfy you for a lifetime. There’s something invigorating and addicting knowing that you just tested some physical parameters and succeeded, and if you get to explore new places along the way, all the sweat and sore muscles are well worth the race.

And it’s always fun to defy medial diagnoses and run for cures and awareness while feeling a hight off contagious race day energy. I have experienced nothing more empowering.

Happy running 🙂 wherever you are.


A Life-Changing Diagnosis & 5 Ways to Cope

A Life-Changing Diagnosis & 5 Ways to Cope

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.

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THE DIAGNOSIS
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 disease for 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.

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Taken two days before my scope at 102 pounds

(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.

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THE MEDS
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.

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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.

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On the left: steroid-free! Right: “Moon Face” side effect in full swing after a flare, taken seven months apart

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.

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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.

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 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.

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After Roommate Haley’s UT Graduation, the Spring after the diagnosis. We rewarded our girl bossery by finishing a sprint triathlon

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 🙂

-Stacey

OH! And have a great Monday! There is such a thing, I promise.

5 Tricks to Make Half-Marathon Training a Whole Lot Better

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.
Slow.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

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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.

-Stacey

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!

Why did I start running?

I’ve been wanting to do this post for awhile:

Why did I start running?

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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.

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The day before my diagnosis

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.

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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.

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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.

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After my first 13.1 in Sonoma, CA

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!)

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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.

Sincerely,

A UC patient from the couch to a half-marathon…or two or three

 

 

Day 1 Half-Marathon Training Recap + Pick-Me-Up Morning Smoothie Recipe

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.

fullsizerender 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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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”.

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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.

Let me know what cha think! 🙂

-Stacey