My “1st” Race

When I first moved to the city, I made it my mission to find a running shoe store that actually knew what they were doing when fitting a runner for shoes. I went to a popular one near a popular running club and it wasn’t great. The shoes were the wrong size for my foot (I would find out later) and I do not, as they insisted, pronate.

I’m not actually sure their salespeople knew what the word “pronate” meant, but they for sure didn’t know it when they saw it.

Thank God I found JackRabbit Sports.

Holla at my homies.

I go to JackRabbit whenever I need new shoes because they know what they’re doing. Really. They spend A LOT of time fitting my Princess and the Pea feet for new (HOT PINK) shoes. I love them. The shoes AND the people.

My feet are on TV!

The best part about being a part of the I ♥ JackRabbit fan club is being in the know on the races going on in the city that they support, sponsor, or host. That other club has a total monopoly but for my money, I’d prefer to be cheered for at road races, not yelled at. Last year was my first Battle of Brooklyn with JackRabbit. The weather was beastly and there were only 7 POJs (my year-long flare had kicked into gear) but the race was a lot of fun.

So I came back for more.

 

So. Much. Fun.

I wanted my 1st race back to be fun, a little challenging, and low-maintenance.

Two school friends committed to running the race and both kicked butt! I mean, one of them CAME IN THIRD PLACE. The other, who had never run farther than something like 8 miles, ran all 10 miles without stopping at 8 minutes per mile pace. JB was out with his cowbell, cheering us on, and I was wearing hot pink. Fun? Check.

Hot. Pink. Saucony + lululemon. Can’t miss me 🙂

Prospect Park, though only 3 and change miles around, has some pretty annoying inclines. They are met with nice, rolling declines, but three loops around the park really makes for an interesting progression of times on one hill in particular. That’s why JackRabbit has the Time Your Climb. Whoever has the most consistent 3 climbs on this hill, man and woman, gets a prize. I never win. My third is consistently markedly slower than my first two. A little challenging? Check!

This map is going in the opposite direction from our race. Think of going from mile 2.75 to mile 2.25 (right to left). That was our hill. We climbed it three times.

I signed up online between classes and even used a $5 off coupon that made registration a grand total of $25. JackRabbit package pickup is always a breeze. The four of us shared a cab to the race. The bathroom line only took 5 minutes thanks to many more than 7 POJs this year. There were signs (and Redcoats!) everywhere. The start of the race was with a gun (maybe it was a musket?) with drums and flutes sending us off and on our way to fight the Brits. There were even British troops spraying us with water cannons on the climb. Fun. Fun. Fun. Low maintenance? Check!

Last of our group to finish, but I had the biggest smile, I think.

I may not have run my best race (1:22, 8:14 avg pace) or won any prizes like soooooome people, but I had a ball. I felt better on my third lap than the previous two and finished strong. I didn’t even notice Rosebud was there, which is the best part of it all and totally the point of having surgery in the first place.

I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t bummed to be the last of our team to finish or that I didn’t match last year’s time. Yeah, I was bummed. For approximately 10 seconds and then I realized how far I’d come and how happy I was to be there and how awesome it felt to run with friends and be smiling afterwards. Not that I don’t have my moments, but this was just too much fun to get down on myself about finishing 30th in my age group. A friend told me to “run happy” and so I did.

🙂

Ready for the Marine Corps? You bet.

Now go out and run!

Not-Quite-Your-Pace Running Friends

My new friend is fast. Like, she runs a marathon a full half an hour faster than me. That’s over a minute per mile faster. Ridiculous. She also runs practically naked, which is hilarious since even when I do take off my shirt, Rosebud has her own running outfit. We are quite a pair.

I am not fast, but I DO have fun!

Anyway, we’re both training for the same marathon, and we still somehow manage to do some of our runs together. Full disclosure: she fully slows down for me instead of me ramping it up for her. That’s usually the way it works. I am so grateful for her company on my runs. Sometimes when I’m running, I get down on myself for feeling so out of shape and slow and it sucks. But having a friend there to chat with leaves no time at all for a pity party.

It’s my party and I’ll drool if I want to.

I decided to pay it forward and help another friend out who is struggling with getting runs in these days. And guess what? It’s kinda fun. Yes, it’s hard to run slower but I am able to run for longer and not be wiped out the next day. Totally in the vein that we talked about yesterday. I’m basically on my way to being Kara Goucher.

That is a lie. This is Kara Goucher and she is awesome. (Image shamelessly stolen from Michele @ nycrunningmama.com. To be fair, she said I could use it, like, 5 months ago. Thanks, Michele!)

Here’s the thing, because your runs don’t all have to be balls-out hard runs, running with a slower running friend can be a really great way to catch up with them, encourage them to get out the door, and (selfishly) get some extra miles. Here’s how I make the most of my buddy runs:

  • Run a few harder miles before or after
  • Run 2.5 down to the East River track, race 1-2 miles on the track while they jog around, run 2.5 miles home with my buddy
  • Join them for a run on a cross-training day when I’ve just lifted or otherwise fatigued my muscles

It’s actually really fun. I didn’t realize how having someone there with me when I’m struggling to get back into things can keep me going. I guess I never had that problem before. You learn something new every day!

Do you run with friends? Are they faster or slower than you? Have you embraced the easy buddy run mentality or are you and all-out kinda runner? Speaking of running, I ought to get going…

Now go out and run!

Go the Distance

First off, thank you all for your kind words of encouragement yesterday. It’s overwhelming to receive such an outpouring of support from so many and I’m grateful for each and every one of you who read, commented, and “liked” my “coming out of the bathroom” post. I feel like a weight has been lifted off of me–it has! Five pounds of colon, to be exact 🙂

Colon-free and kicking ass!

Now when I go to wipe my face with my shirt in Central Park, I won’t be so shy about Rosebud showing because all of you will be like, “What? It’s just an ostomy. NBD.” (No Big Deal for the short-hand illiterate like myself)

This past weekend, I ran NYC’s Summer Streets with several of my lululemon friends and family. We ran about 13 miles down and over the Brooklyn Bridge. It was glorious!

This is actually from last year, but you get the idea. Awesome views from the bridge!

As we trekked down Park Avenue with several hundred other runners, we chatted about life, running, training, and what-not. The miles ticked on by and before we knew it, we were turning around, barely winded and ready to head back uptown.

Grand Central Station, where did you come from? Only one mile left!

I haven’t felt so relaxed on a long run in ages! No bathroom break panics, no oh-my-God-it’s-so-hot-I-gotta-stop-before-I-die moments, no “are we there yet?!” moaning and groaning. Just 13 chatty, easy miles.

In order to go the distance of a marathon (or any other race), you gotta go the distance in your weekly workouts. Long runs aren’t meant to be speedy, they are meant to be long. I have a strict rule that I must feel good at the end of a long run, not dead dog tired.

Save the speed for your Yasso 800s and tempo runs. Save the marathon goal pace workouts for the middle of the week. Save the sprinting for the finish. Use your long runs to go long, go easy, and finish feeling like you could have gone longer.

That’s how Kara Goucher trains. And we all wanna run like Kara, don’t we? (again, I have to credit Erica for this awesome photo)

Matt Fitzgerald over at Competitor Magazine found that most elite athletes do more than 2/3 of their workouts at significantly slower than race pace. The goal is to run and keep running.

“Studies on the training intensity distribution of elite runners have found that most elite runners run at low intensities most of the time. For example, a survey of male and female runners who competed in the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team Trials Men’s and Women’s Marathons revealed that the men did almost three-quarters of their training slower than their marathon race pace, while women did more than two-thirds of their training at slower paces.”

Sum it up: No burn out.

Promise you, this is the way to train for your marathon and enjoy training for your marathon. After all, it is the journey, isn’t it? What are you waiting for, grab a friend and hit the road!

One handed! Peanut will be my running buddy very soon. And from the looks of it, my shopping buddy, too!

Now go out and run.

The Choice I Made

“There’s nothing more we can do for you.”

Those are not words you ever want to hear come out of your doctor’s mouth. Nope. Those are words that make your heart race, your stomach flip-flop, and your eyes well up with tears.

“Ok,” I said. “So what’s next?”

“Well, the only other option is surgery.” Gulp. “You are a very good candidate and I can make several suggestions of surgeons I would trust if it were me.”

“Ok. But, Boz, be straight with me. We tried everything, right?”

I knew the answer to that question before I even asked it. Yes, we did everything. I know we tried everything. Boz told me, KAP told me, and my surgeon would tell me a week and a half later that I had the 3 of the top indicators for my surgery. So, yeah, we tried everything.

My Ulcerative Colitis was not especially terrible the first year. A negligible flare-up treated with topical steroids, 4 time-release pills, and an anti-inflammatory suppository seemed like nothing to worry about. Then Jersey happened. After that, they put me in a clinical trial for a new drug. It was all downhill from there.

The first of many iron/Banana Bag IVs back in November to combat the anemia. I felt like Superwoman for exactly 2 days and then back to feeling like crap. Pun intended.

A year-long flare-up (yes, it lasted a full year) that included every drug under the sun: Proctofoam, Canasa, Apriso, Hydrocortisone enemas (that was fun), some suppository concocted and mixed by a pharmacist that was definitely NOT covered by my insurance, Prednisone, Remicade infusions (yay, chemo), and finally, Humira injections.

For the science geeks out there (holla!), I was being treated with TNF blockers, but they are really designed for Th1 inflammatory diseases (Crohns) and Ulcerative Colitis is a Th2 disease. Hooray for Histology because I actually understand the difference!!!

Easy as pie, right? Darn Th2 cells think my colon is bad.

In any event, Nothing worked. My immune system barely acknowledged the drugs and my disease continued to spread and wreak havoc on my everyday life, not to mention what it was doing to my running. As a lululemon Ambassador, personal trainer, and run coach, I was finding it nearly impossible to do my job, let alone get my own workouts in on a regular basis.

Lots and lots and lots of treadmill miles last year.

By the time I was training for Philly, I couldn’t run outside anymore. My workouts were relegated to the treadmill nearest to the bathrooms at the Palladium, and sometimes even that wasn’t close enough for me. I supplemented with indoor cycling classes, but fevers kept me from many of my workouts and home from school. I caught every flu and cold any one of my 400+ classmates had. I was exhausted all the time. I was anemic and getting sicker by the day.

As much fun as it was to run 12 miles on the treadmill, I prefer the great outdoors.

My March colonoscopy confirmed that the disease had spread to take over nearly all of my descending colon, showing no signs of slowing down. Two marathons completed during flare-ups was two too many for me. As much as I didn’t want to lose an organ, I really didn’t want to lose my life.

Dear Remicade,
You were wreaking havoc on my hair and my blogging time. Thanks for nuthin.
xoxo
Abby

So, after a year of being sick, getting iron IVs, having chemo drugs pumped into my veins every three weeks, and having my spirit beat to hell by Ulcerative Colitis, I chose the only option I had left.

I had my entire colon removed.

The day after. Colon-free. What am I smiling about? Mostly, I was just happy the epidural was working!

It was not a hard decision. It was either surgery now or later, since the disease was spreading and would eventually cause my entire colon to become necrotic, amongst other not-so-fabulous medical problems.

I trusted Boz when he said we had tried everything. I knew that if I didn’t respond to the drugs from the get-go that I would never respond to them. My body was breaking down and I never felt quite like myself. I wanted my life back. I had just been accepted to NYU’s Doctorate of Physical Therapy program and now I was scared I would be too sick to make it through the next three years.

LIAR!!!

I was fortunate enough to chat with some very candid young women about their surgeries and life after surgery. I also read other people’s stories online and they all said the same thing, “It was the best decision I ever made.” I was sold.

And so, with the unwavering support of JB, I met with a top colorectal surgeon and set a date to have my entire colon removed, a temporary ileostomy created along with a J-pouch. I have no colon. I have a stoma named Rosebud (think Citizen Kane), and a colostomy bag. I wrote about the surgery itself back in June, but have always been reluctant to “come out” about having an ileostomy. I guess the whole colostomy bag thing is why.

All dressed up and ready to go. Purple marks the spot!

I didn’t look at it for the first two days after surgery. When my ostomy nurse, who is AWESOME, came to change my bag I finally saw Rosebud. I didn’t freak out the way I thought I would, though I still couldn’t bring myself to touch it. It took me a few tries to get used to changing my bag, but now I’m a pro.

The biggest fear I had (childish as it is to admit this) was that people would define me by my ileostomy/colostomy bag. Five weeks after surgery I started my DPT program with 43 perfect strangers whom I’d be stuck with for the next three years, come hell or high water. I didn’t want the first thing they knew about me to be that I have a colostomy bag and I didn’t want to be treated any differently by my professors. I told a few classmates just so I could get help if Rosebud freaked out during one of our 8:30-4:30 school days, but Rosebud is largely still a secret.

I’d much rather be known as The Girl Who Owls rather than The Girl With the Colostomy Bag. What the heck, I can be both 🙂

No more.

I decided when I started this blog that I wanted to Be the Change I want to see in this world. So, here I am. Loud and proud to be an ostomate! I have a stoma named Rosebud who hates dried fruit and spinach and talks after lunch like she’s reciting Shakespeare. Some of my classmates must have heard it but probably didn’t know who or what was making all that noise. It was Rosebud. Sorry for the noise.

I am still me. I ran 13 miles on Saturday, took a spin class yesterday, and am going to run my 10th marathon in October at the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., colostomy bag and all!

Post-surgery Fly-ing with my lululemon family 🙂

I am healthier and happier than I have been in more than a year now that I’m fully recovered from my surgery. JB remarked the other day how much healthier I look now. Looking back, I can see how sick I had actually become. I’ll have a second surgery in December to connect my J-pouch to my remaining small intestine so that I can do my thing like everyone else and Rosebud will retire back below my abdominal wall. If it doesn’t work and I have my colostomy bag permanently, I still won’t regret it. I’ll never regret it.

I can run 13 miles of Summer Streets and not look for a bathroom once. I can take a walk with my husband outside. I can take the subway. I can eat without fear. I can plan a date with friends. I can stand in the cadaver lab for three hours and not need to rush to the bathroom every 5 minutes. I can live my life.

Me & Rosebud’s first run. We did A-ok 🙂 Thanks for the help, Rainbow!

So what if I have a colostomy bag? So what? I thought I might care more or be more sensitive about it, but I don’t and I’m not. Got questions? Bring ’em on. Got comments? I want to hear those, too! Do you have a colostomy bag? Tell me all your secrets about how you manage to keep your wafer on during 15 mile run, I’m dying to know. Do you have Crohns or Colitis? Have you been faced with the same decision as me? Tell me about it. I want to know.

You are not alone.

I had this made a few weeks after surgery. It’s to remind me that no matter what I’m going through, I’m not going through it alone.

In hindsight, it doesn’t seem like such a big deal to me anymore. I’m happy to share my story and help other people to understand my disease and surgery. There are a lot of us out there with Crohns, Colitis, and Ostomies. We want you to understand our disease, to help us fight and to raise awareness about Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Walk with us. Run with us. Ride with us.

I kill you, CCFA shark!

I hope that by reading my story, someone out there will realize that there is life after an ostomy. A great life, actually. You can run, you can swim, you can bike, you can do anything with your ostomy! And you can do it all with IBD, too. You just need a little support and a lot of courage to take the first steps.

My first steps back. Thanks for walking with me, Mom!

Remember how treadmill running was my only option for the past year? Well, a few weeks ago I walked into the Palladium with a friend to work out. Whenever I used to walk into the gym while I was sick, I would have to run for the bathrooms. I mean RUUUUUUUUUUUN!!!!!!!!!! I expected that feeling to come over me as soon as I walked back into the building. The panic.

When it didn’t, I realized that my life had changed.

The nightmare was over.

The new and improved Abby 🙂

Thanks for reading this crazy-long blog entry (that is, if any of you made it to the end). I hope you have a great day and a great run. Me and Rosebud are heading out the door right now!

Now go out and run!

Train Your Brain

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to bug the hell out of chat with my cousin’s boyfriend who happens to also be a med student at Brown headed for a very successful career in orthopedic surgery. I have high hopes for a very successful mutual business arrangement with him in the future. IF I can convince them to move to NYC, that is.

Never gonna happen, but we can have really nerdy conversation about tendons and stuff at family gatherings. That’s right. We’re the cool table.

Dear Anyone Else in Scrubs,
Beware of me. I will ask you questions all night long.
xo
Soon-to-be Dr. Abby, DPT

I had about a million questions I wanted to ask him (I restrained myself) but he had one for me, too.

“How much of running a marathon is mental and how much is physical?”

JB’s answer was 80% mental, 20% physical. I disagree slightly with those numbers. For me, 20 miles is physical. For 20 miles, my training will show. My speed workouts, my long runs, my 13-16 weeks of training will be out there for everyone to see.

Game face. Kinda struggling.

Same spot, 3 years later. Feeling much better, wouldn’t you say?

My training makes all the difference when it comes to how I’m feeling at mile 20. After that, all bets are off.

Then mile 21 comes along. And 22. And here comes my mental game. Because, no matter how hard I’ve trained or how many miles I’ve logged, at mile 20, I am bored. I am tired. I am ready to be done. And yet, I have almost another whole hour of running to go.

Miles 20-26.2 is where the difference between a 3:45 and a 4:00 time happens.

Miles 20-26.2 is where I stop smiling and start hunkering down.

Miles 20-26.2 is where I remind myself that I’ve done this 9 times before and I will do it again.

Miles 20-26.2 is where I visualize finishing.

Miles 20-26.2 are my mental game.

 

I start to envision my familiar running routes so I don’t psych myself out about how much further I have to run. I think to myself, “Self, you know what 4 miles feels like in Central Park. Pretend you’re on that run, not this one.”

I’m dreaming of a finisher medal somewhere around mile 24.

And I count down. And I finish.

My workouts make me fast. My long runs make me fit. My gym time makes me strong. But it’s all bubkis if my mental game isn’t there. So don’t get all caught up in the runs and focus on keeping your head in the game.

If finishing 9 marathons has taught me anything it’s that if I just keep going, I will eventually reach the finish line.

Now go out and run!