Austin Half Marathon Race Weekend

Man oh man. It felt so damn good to be back in Austin.

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I have been reading “The Alchemist” (I know- I’m late to the party), and it has me lookin’ for good omens. On Friday, our first day in Austin, we ran into the UT baton twirler from when we were students who was TWIRLING OUTDOORS in this very spot. You guys. It was an omen.

I taught baton twirling in college, and I was maybe her biggest fan. Twirlers are a rare breed, and we literally ran into her, and then stopped to talk to her. Made my day. As weird as that sounds, it was an omen. Not sure what it meant, but it was a good sign- promise.

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We happened to be in Austin for two reasons:
1. Hope! She’s a friend that I met on instagram, and she flew to Texas to race.
2. And race we did! Pictured above, we were at the Austin Half Marathon expo on Friday.

Then we ate. That’s actually what we did the majority of the weekend, but I need to give special thanks to:
-True Food Kitchen
-Picnik
-Hank’s
These places were especially kind about my dietary restrictions, and the food was incredible.

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True Food Kitchen was so enthusiastic to help with my food restrictions. ENTHUSIASTIC. They didn’t make me feel like the difficult customer that I hate to be, and they were fantastic. They helped me craft my own menu item to suit my weird dietary needs, and I left feeling great knowing that the food didn’t contain the stuff that my autoimmune disease won’t let me have right now. If there’s something I can learn from this experience it’s BE KIND to the wait staff, and gently explain/advocate for yourself. Be vigilant. But be gentle, and people will bend over backward to help you and your health.

It was breezy and 80something degrees. We walked back across the bridge to the car and called it a night. Austin, ya look good.

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On Saturday, we ate at Picnik for brunch after a warm-up run, and had a very similar experience to True Food Kitchen- everyone was so helpful. Then we took Hope to see some touristy sites, like the Loop 360 Bridge overlook.

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And stayed hydrated via Juiceland. Pictured here: “The Rehydrator”.

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Sunday morning was race day, and it was a cool, crisp 55 degrees at the start on Congress Avenue. The first three miles were gradually uphill, but we were on South Congress, and there was live music. No complaints! All four lanes of the road were open for runners, so even though the start wasn’t in waves, there was plenty of room. I never felt crammed.

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I HIGHLY recommend running Austin without headphones- there was live music EVERYWHERE, and I loved the course. I stayed hydrated via my own sports drink: water, lemon juice, lime juice, and salt. I brought along banana slices with a smidge of peanut butter and rice cake in my spi belt for fuel once I got to mile 9, and it was perfect. I had previously been a tried and true gatorade gels fan, but I recently discovered that I’m sensitive to the dye that’s on the ingredients list (womp womp), so I have been DIYing my fuel instead, with great success.

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I wrote a positive mantra on myself for the race. I NEEDED this around mile 10 through the finish line, because those hills weren’t playin’. I ran this race because I paid for it, and I love to run. I love a good race- I do. But in all honesty, I had no business running. Let me tell you why:
– Shingles! I had the shingles virus, and while it was (almost/mostly) gone, my energy levels were NOT up to par.
-Symptoms. I had to go off my immunosuppressants to try to heal my body quickly from the shingles virus, and my GI situation was very touch and go.
-Training. My training for this race was very lacking.
-Rest should’ve been priority. Shingles + GI + a rough week of tests in grad school calls for ample rest, and 13.1 miles wasn’t ideal.

If you’re strugglin’- solidarity! One foot in front of the other, friend.

Am I glad I did it though? Shoot yeah. Can’t you tell? Honestly- I had the most fun.

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Hope had a really great race though! A new PR for a half!

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And Zack was at the finish AND a cheer station at mile 9.

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Afterward, we all went to Hillside Pharmacie for brunch, and I inhaled my breakfast and coffee so fast. We sat outside and the wind was COLD! But we had the very best time.

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If you’ve never been to Austin, you should definitely visit, but don’t move there. I’m planning on moving back one day, and there’s really not room for all of us to play.
Sorry not sorry.

Highly, highly recommend running the Austin Half Marathon. The more races I run, the harder it is for me to pick a favorite, but this race is up there. It’s not a fast course- very hilly, but the crowd is great, the live music is unbeatable, and there’s no place I’d rather run than under the sun in Austin on a 55 degree Sunday morning.

Keep moving forward!

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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