I’m Out

I had my very first, “Where’s the blog?!” inquiry and decided to wait til everything was settled before I share the reason for my absence: I’ve been busy freaking out.

When I decided to have surgery back in May, I was all, “Let’s do it! Then I can train for the Marine Corps Marathon and be colon-free and kicking butt! Yeah!”

First run colon-free (aka disease-free)!!!

Yeah…

…no.

When I wrote about DNF-ing, I had just completed an awesome 18 mile run. I was feeling GREAT! I had had an absolutely awesome training season and was ready to kick butt. I had no idea I’d basically be talking to myself in two weeks.

Two ER visits in five days and one seriously depressing conversation with my surgeon and ostomy nurse this week have sadly ended my journey to this year’s Marine Corps Marathon. I didn’t realize how much this meant to me until it was taken away.

This is my happy face. I am not making my happy face right now.

All the training. All the hard work to get back on the road and in the gym and into my spinning classes. All the horrifically humid, disgustingly hot summer long runs and short runs for the one goal of running 26.2 in one month: gone. It was SO HARD. REALLY. HARD.

Stupid scar tissue. You see, I had, ummm, major surgery and sometimes there are little complications that cause BIG problems. Like scar tissue. It’s normal and expected but, in my case, is kinking my small intestine and not really allowing food to pass easily. Hello, ER.

ER visit numero uno.

The second ER visit was so painful and awful that I couldn’t even pretend to be ok enough to take a picture. I think the rest of the patients thought I was giving birth. I yelled at the entire team of doctors, learned that Morphine is useless but Dilaudid is my friend, and taught the attending how to treat me.

What this all adds up to is surgery much earlier than expected.

Terrific. Can’t wait to rock the hospital gown look again.

I was planning on doing my J-pouch take-down in December between school semesters. Totally ideal for this busy gal. Well, the best laid plans pave the road to hell and I am on my way into the operating room much earlier to clear out the scar tissue AND do the take-down.

Two birds. One stone. Thanks, doc.

I’m bummed. No, pissed. I’m pissed.

Don’t let the thumbs-up-fake-smile fool you. I am pissed.

The timing sucks. I have to miss school. I have to miss the marathon. I have to miss one of my oldest friend’s wedding. I’m basically going to miss the best time of year for running and being in New York because I will be stuck at home recovering and then trying to catch up with school.

This sucks.

Yes, I know it’s temporary. Yes, I know it’s sooner rather than later “and isn’t that better?” Yes, I know that it means I won’t have to do surgery at Christmas. Yes, I know I’m lucky to have great doctors and lots of support. Yes, I know there’ll be other weddings and marathons and other beautiful Fall days.

*sniff* I love Fall in New York.

Seriously. I know all of that.

And it still sucks.

And I’m still scared.

But ready or not, here we go. Less than two weeks to get everything squared away. Wish me luck and hopefully, by the time I get rolled into that OR, I will have a much better attitude, for your sake and mine.

Now go out and run (I sure am while I still can!).

Did Not Fail

Ahhhhhh, Fall! For most of us runners, Fall = running season. Cooler mornings, a race every single weekend until Christmas, and the threat of holiday weight gain urging us to employ our running shoes more frequently.

For many runners, it also means having our sights set on the finish line at some marathon or another.

NYC Marathon Finish Line. Mecca, for a lot of us.

16 weeks of training (or more), weekend after weekend of long runs, the shame of having to wear compression socks to the grocery store on Saturday afternoons, and more attention to our glutes than most of us like to admit culminates with 26.2 miles of foot-stomping fun.

But sometimes it doesn’t.

Sometimes a runner’s dream is dashed only weeks before the Big Race. Tendonitis, pulled muscles, stress fractures, catch-all joint syndromes, and mystery pains can keep the most seasoned marathoner from toeing the line this Fall. The dreaded DNF.

DNF usually stands for Did Not Finish. I hate this acronym. There’s an innate sense of failure in the wording that brings about feelings of deep shame to the individual whose name bears these three little letters on the runner roster.

But DNF doesn’t tell the whole story, nor is it the final chapter in your running book.

It takes courage to defer or call it a day. When you know your body can’t take any more, that running further or for more weeks would only be detrimental to your long term health, DNF-ing or deferring is SMART. In fact, it takes a smarter, more seasoned runner who knows their limits to call it a day.

The smart runner knows when it’s over.

The smart runner knows that one race does not define them.

The smart runner knows there will be more.

The smart runner knows when to ask for help.

The smart runner knows the difference between good pain and bad pain.

The smart runner pushes the limits and is ok when, occasionally, they fail.

The stupid ones (yes, I called you stupid) push through the bad pain and force themselves on the course simply for their own ego. You know where ego gets you? The orthopedic surgeon’s office and then the PT’s clinic for months and months in excruciating pain. Sounds fun, right?

To all of you who have called it a season, despite having paid for a marathon entry this Fall, I salute you. You are smart and brave and I applaud you for taking care of yourself, knowing there will be other races for you to rock.

Have you ever deferred or had to DNF? How did you feel then? How do you feel now? Are you considering a deferment this year? Share with us!

Now go out and run!

Invisible Illness Awareness Week

This week is Invisible Illness Awareness Week, September 10-16, 2012. I have an invisible illness, as do millions of Americans. Rosebud would sometimes like to be more visible, I think (she occasionally gets naked when I run), but by and large, you can’t tell she’s there. It’s a struggle for many of us who need special accommodations and maybe just a little smile from day to day.

Hey, hey Rosebud!

“Be Kind for Everyone You Meet is Fighting a Great Battle.”–Plato

1. The illness I live with is: Ulcerative Colitis/Ileostomy

2. I was diagnosed with it in the year: 2010

3. But I had symptoms since: 2001

4. The biggest adjustment I’ve had to make is: With UC, it was spending almost 5 hours in the bathroom every day, not being able to take the subway, not being able to run outside, not being able to eat foods I like or that are healthy. With my ileostomy, everything has gone back to normal…except for how food exits my body 🙂 Oh, and I have to hydrate more and eat more salt (twist my arm).

5. Most people assume: That digestive diseases are the fault of the person and can be cured with some special diet. Digestive diseases are either hereditary or the result of a transcription error in your DNA reproduction (RNA). Simple as that.

6. The hardest part about mornings are: With UC, it was that I had no idea what my stomach would do that day. Was 1 hour in the bathroom enough? 2? How much blood would I lose? It was terrible. Now, sometimes Rosebud needs to be re-dressed and it’s 4:45am and I have a 5:15am client. Not a lot of time but it’s pretty rare when that happens! All in all, a complete 180.

7. My favorite medical TV show is: Do old Grey’s Anatomy re-runs count? I don’t watch any of the “doctor” shows unless Dr. G, Medical Examiner counts…and I no longer have cable so I don’t even watch that anymore.

8. A gadget I couldn’t live without is: My Hollihesives by Hollister. Holla! With UC it was my smartphone. The bathroom is a lonely place for 5 hours a day.

9. The hardest part about nights are: Blowouts from gas. Yeah, ostomies are so sexy 🙂 With UC it was the unpredictability of the emergency bathroom visits. Oh, and all the times I didn’t make it.

10. Each day I take: Vitamin D & B12. There used to be 3-4 other incredibly hard drugs on this list, but Rosebud made those all go away. They didn’t work anyway.

11. Regarding alternative treatments I: Tried. Acupuncture, juice diets, meditation, yoga. They failed.

12. If I had to choose between an invisible illness or visible I would choose: Invisible. No one stares at me or asks me point-blank about Rosebud who doesn’t already know me and know my story.

13. Regarding working and career: I am lucky that I had another choice beyond the drugs. UC was affecting every aspect of my career, including my ability to attend class to get my degree. Without the surgery, I’m not sure I would have been able to do my job long-term.

14. People would be surprised to know: That I am the happiest I have been in a long time with my colostomy bag and I would choose it every single day of the week and twice on Sundays rather than going back to doing my business “normally” and still have UC. You can keep my colon, I’ll take my health.

15. The hardest thing to accept about my new reality has been: Adjusting my wardrobe for my bag. Not fun.

16. Something I never thought I could do with my illness that I did was: Run two marathons during massive flare-ups and I’m planning on my 1st colon-free marathon in 6 weeks (5 months post-op). The human body is amazing.

17. The commercials about my illness: Never seen one. No one likes to talk about poop.

18. Something I really miss doing since I was diagnosed is: When I had UC, it was running outside. Now, it’s wearing a bikini on the beach.

19. It was really hard to have to give up: UC: salads. Ostomy: bikinis.

20. A new hobby I have taken up since my diagnosis is: UC: surfing the Internet in the bathroom. Ostomy: life is back to normal, nothing new to report.

21. If I could have one day of feeling normal again I would: Get in a bikini and run on the beach without a shirt.

22. My illness has taught me: That I am strong and life goes on. That my husband loves all of me always. That my family and friends (the real ones, anyway) rock.

23. Want to know a secret? One thing people say that gets under my skin is: Right after my surgery, someone remarked that the post-op 20lb. weight loss “looks great on you”. Oh gee, thanks. Never tell someone who is sick and has lost a bunch of weight due to their illness that they look “so great”. They feel like sh*t.

24. But I love it when people: Ask about Rosebud. It means they care enough to want to know about my disease.

25. My favorite motto, scripture, quote that gets me through tough times is: If you just keep going, eventually you will get to the finish line.

26. When someone is diagnosed I’d like to tell them: You can do anything you want with this disease, you just have to get creative and be brave.

27. Something that has surprised me about living with an illness is: How my husband has responded. His unwavering love and support has pulled me back off of many a ledge and kept things in perspective. I didn’t realize how much I needed that from him. His strength is the reason I have been able to go through all of this with a smile.

28. The nicest thing someone did for me when I wasn’t feeling well was: Leave the hospital room/my apartment and let me sleep. No, really. And I received more flower arrangements in the hospital and at home than I ever thought I would in a million years. I was so moved by the outpouring of support.

29. I’m involved with Invisible Illness Week because: My disease isn’t sexy, but that doesn’t mean you should know about and talk about it. I want the IBD community to be strong and supportive of each other.

30. The fact that you read this list makes me feel: Humbled. And a little weird. You read about poop?

Now go out and run!

Endurance Without the Mileage

The Marine Corps Marathon is a little more than 7 weeks away.

Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek!!!!!!!!!!!

Ready to rock my Team Fisher House gear & get my medal!

But I’ve only been back running for 3 months now. That whole surgery thing in May set me back a ways in my marathon training. Soooooooo, what’s a gal to do when she’s committed to running a marathon, for a charity no less, in 7 very short weeks? Suck it up and train smart.

Starting back, I started slow and short. My friend took me for my first jog around the block when I felt ready. I broke exactly zero records on that and just about every run to follow for the past 2 months or so. Only in the last few weeks have I started feeling like myself.

Slow. Heavy. But more like Abby Who Runs instead of Abby Who Just Had Surgery. Progress!

Run, run, run as fast as you can! Can’t catch me, I’m the cupcake woman! Admittedly, I don’t really have cupcakes all that often, which is sad but true.

My first concern was Rosebud. After that, it’s hydration. Then it’s my legs. And finally, my endurance.

My mental game is there. I struggled mentally with my first marathon back in 2003 but kinda got the hang of it after that. My game is primarily about endurance. And since I haven’t had much time to build endurance, I’m doing it in a rather unconventional way.

I’m running, yes, but I’m spinning. Like, twice a week and on days that I’m running and the day after a long run. And I’m lifting twice a week in addition to the 4-5 days a week of running.

Lord help me, it’s been a beastly hot summer! Check the “glow” (= massive sweat).

I’m doing this for several reasons:

  1. One of my favorite Flywheel instructors is finally back from the Hamptons. Finally.
  2. I need to train for the time, but not necessarily the mileage, to increase my endurance without getting injured.
  3. I want to get stronger but I really can’t afford to add more run workouts.
  4. I feel safe to push hard on the bike and in a gym.

A typical week looks like this:

Sometimes I decide not to run and I take a nap. It happens.

The spinning and the track workouts have definitely made a HUGE difference in my ability to add mileage in short period of time.

The other thing I do is mandatory take-down weeks once a month. I add mileage to my long run every week and then, after the third week of adding, I drop down. For example, the past 4 weeks have gone like this:

  • 8/19: Battle of Brooklyn 10-miler
  • 8/27: 14 miles
  • 8/3: 16 miles
  • This weekend: 13 miles
  • Next weekend: 18 miles

This allows my body to take a break from all the adding on and have an easier, shorter long run every few weeks. We’re all about finishing here! No records being broken.

Well, maybe the shortest time from colectomy/ileostomy to marathon? Nah. Probably not.Anyway, if you’re in a hurry to go from nada to marathon (and have done a marathon before), this is a good way to add the mileage without breaking your legs. Works for me!

Now go out and run!