Wednesday, July 20, 2016

You Can't Do Amazing Things EVERY Day

The first half of 2016 was amazing:

  • March: I set a huge PR in the half marathon despite 20 MPH winds and a torrential downpour
  • April: I ran the Boston Marathon and then took a week-long vacation in Mexico
  • May: I published my book, Boston Bound
  • June: Promoted the book, and it ended up on the best-seller list on Amazon!
When June rolled around, I had my hands full. I was running hard workouts in the heat, actively promoting the book, working my full-time job, and admittedly not sleeping well. 

But then things came to an abrupt halt on June 30 when I came down with mono. This meant no more running, no more going to work, no more socializing with friends, no more book interviews. I was crushed when the doctor told me that I wouldn't feel 100% until the end of August. 

My mother, who had accompanied me to the doctor, said to me, "You can't do amazing things EVERY day." It's true. Even though you can be your amazing self every day, you can't always do amazing things. There's a difference. Once again I find myself needing to accept life's imperfections. And I need to remember that I am person who runs, not "a runner." Considering that I may not ever do as many wonderful things in a six-month period as the first half of this year, I guess I can't be too upset that I need to take a break from it all.

Greg reminded me though, that I actually DO do amazing things every day. Because I love him every day. I support him every day. I'm a kind person every day. I guess at look at these things as "being" myself not necessarily "doing" anything amazing.

The doctor told me that I could look at this a summer bug, or I could look at it as my body telling me that I needed to slow down and get some rest. I chose the latter. 

When I look at everything I was doing in June, and how I wasn't really paying attention to my physical health, it all makes sense. Unless I was running a speed workout, I wouldn't eat anything after my runs until I got into work, two hours later. My thought was that I wasn't really hungry, and "it's just a 5-miler" so I didn't need to refuel immediately. 

Also, I was only getting about 5-6 hours of sleep per night during the week leading up to the illness. I was super excited about my book, and the Amazon sales dashboard would only update in the middle of the night. My body somehow knew this, and I'd wake up at 1:00am to check the numbers. Totally not healthy! I couldn't control the fact that I was waking up in the middle of the night, but I could control how much I thought about the book immediately before going to sleep. Not to mention, working out in the heat is tough on the immune system. Much tougher than working out in sub-freezing temperatures.

Salad with mango, blueberries, spinach, egg white, avocado
Finally, I wasn't getting enough fruits and vegetables. I was so busy that I would eat whatever was most convenient. We have free whole fruit at work, but instead of taking the time to cut that up and eat it, I would usually grab a granola bar or chips. While those aren't necessarily bad choices, I really needed more nutrients. I often didn't feel like leaving the office to get lunch, and I didn't bring lunch, so I would just graze on office snacks. 

So, yeah, I'm not all that surprised I got sick. I didn't exactly treat my immune system very well. And so I'm learning the hard way. 

I'm slowly starting to feel more normal, but I still haven't run yet. My legs feel weak and I want to wait the three weeks that the doctor prescribed. And, of course, I just don't have a ton of energy. Oddly, the most energizing thing is core work. You'd think that running (something I used to do every day) might help me be more energized, but my one attempt last week proved that theory wrong. Instead, core work (which I hadn't done in about a year) makes me feel strong and really peps me up. So I have been doing some light core work every other morning.

With that said, here are the changes that I have made to my lifestyle, and that will continue even once I am recovered. Some goals/resolutions:
  • Stop looking at my phone right before bedtime. 
  • Start reading in bed instead.
  • Stop thinking about stressful things at bedtime.
  • Start thinking about the book I'm reading in bed.
  • Start making time in the morning for breakfast (or some substantial nutrition) before I leave the house.
  • Stop grazing around the office for lunch.
  • Start bringing a full lunch to work or leaving the office to get a real lunch.
  • Start buying more fruits and veggies at the grocery store and eating them during the week.
  • Start drinking more water. (I actually had been pretty good about this, but not every day.)
  • Start taking vitamins every day.
  • Reduce my stress level by thinking positive, more self-loving thoughts, like it's OKAY to not be doing amazing things EVERY day! 
Light core work has helped me feel better.
I was really fortunate to be injury and illness free for the past three years. In fact, being able to train with such consistency is really what led to my extreme jump in fitness over the past year. I never thought I took it for granted, but now I realize I need to make the above changes to really take care of my body and train at the level I want to train at.

My coach wanted to pause on re-working my training schedule until we really knew what we were looking at. The first priority is to get better so that I can train at full capacity. I'm starting to accept that I may need to drop Indianapolis down to the half and run the Rehoboth full four weeks later, in early December. It definitely won't be the end of the world, it's just not what I had planned on doing. I figure I might as well accept this possibility sooner rather than later. 

Meanwhile, the support of my friends throughout this whole mono ordeal has been incredible. People have offered to bring me stuff, and I'm getting frequent texts/IMs from people. I'm well enough to go into the office to work, with a modified schedule, so that's making me feel more "normal." I just need to be careful not to overdo the work because when I had mono in 2012, I kept trying to go back to work too soon and I kept relapsing. My goal here is to recover quicker than I did in 2012 by avoiding the mistakes I made back then. Some days I feel like I'm moving in the wrong direction because I feel worse than the day before, but I have to remember that's part of the illness and I WILL recover 100%. 


  1. I think that's hard for me too--I feel like every time I run a race or place in my AG that I'm doing something amazing. Coming back to reality--cleaning up dog poop, for example--is kind of tough. This injury is helping me to bring it down a notch.

    I hope you are feeling better.

    1. Absolutely. And even though the title of this post sounds negative, it is actually meant to be a reminder that we can define our own "amazing" and we can't push ourselves 100% all the time.

  2. Great resolutions and way to stick with the core work! I like your mom's mantra. So on point!

  3. You are totally a runner, even if you are not running right now. Give yourself some grace with the mono... it happens. Everyone has setbacks in running and life. It sounds like you've already done a good job on focusing on your health and getting better- which is the right step. You cannot be a healthy runner unless you are a healthy person overall, after all. You have done so much this year, and it's really incredible. You have your best running to come, too.

    1. The "I am not a runner, I am a person who runs" is from the book. ;-) It's a way to separate yourself as a person from your sport, so that when you can't do your sport, you still feel just as good about yourself.

  4. You can't fuel a Ferrari with regular gas! In my first couple of Ironmans, I ate whatever I wanted and we were heading to Hungry Jacks (Burger King in Australia) after 5-6 hour bike rides. I figured that since I'm training for Ironman, I can eat whatever I wanted. I was fit, but it didn't help me lose weight. 3 years later and living a mostly-vegan lifestyle, I recover quicker and rarely get sick. Never ever skip breakfast, don't eat chips, and get your nutrients from real food. Vitamins are acid-forming and not fully absorbed due to the lack of fiber and goodness of real food. I have bags of almonds and cashews at work and jars of peanut butter (99.9% nuts & salt) that I eat out of the jar. In 2009 when I qualified for Boston I went vegetarian for a bout 3 months. Good luck.

    1. All good advice! I know these things, it's just a matter of making nutrition a priority.

  5. You're doing amazingly with or without running. This illness sounds like no joke. Just focus on getting yourself 100% again and then when you get back to be being superwoman fuel like a superwoman and treat yourself with lots of TLC - you deserve it!

  6. ..and you were a HUGE contributor to your RunningAhead mileage game team :)

    1. Good thing I was WAY ahead of my goal, because now it looks like I could miss it.

  7. I am so sorry. I know just what you were going for.
    I have been so sick for 10 months. The first 6 months I had to total stop running, it was so frustrating. In fact I stopped everything. I went to work came home, hopped in bed and slept 12 hours a night.
    After 10 months of fighting with doctors and specialists I have been diagnosed with mono. They think there may be more issues going on (thyroid?) that have caused me body to be weaker making my mono last for 10 months, with no signs of stopping.
    The giving up the running for so long was the hardest part for me. I just didn't feel like myself. I am hoping that after your prescribed time off you will feel better and be able to get back into it.

    1. Thanks, Abby. Your situation is really scary. I hope they can figure out why the mono has lasted so long. I totally understand not "feeling like yourself" if you don't run. It's been such a part of my daily life and now it's not. Definitely a feeling of loss, but I am optimistic about getting it back.