Tuesday, December 31, 2013

confession time

As 2013 is coming to a close I, like many people, have been thinking a lot about the past year and what it has meant for me.  I have grown a lot as a runner, and as a person this year.  I have referenced in many posts how I have become more confident, mostly because of running and the running family I have found.  I finally feel comfortable in my own skin and abilities, and am not afraid to say this is me.  When I wrote that very first post in March, in this attempt at blogging, I'm not sure I believed everything I typed.  I wanted to believe it.  I wanted so badly to be the confident person I felt was inside of me somewhere.  Now, as I type this last post of 2013, I can honestly say I am me…and I am very much ok with that.

With all of that being said, a large part of why I started this blog was to try to be more open and honest with myself and with others.  There is one pretty big secret that I have wanted to share since my first post.  I have hinted at it a few times, I have though about writing about it, but could never find the motivation, or the strength to fully let it out.  A few recent doctor appointments, a new confidence, and my desire to help others has lead me to feel as though this is the right time.  Some details may be left out, some I may not remember, some will be very difficult to share, and equally as difficult to read, but I'll do my best.  

For a long time, this was me...

I don't really remember a time when I was comfortable with my body.  I remember being probably 9 or 10 at gymnastics camp, comparing my body to my teammate's.  Growing up in a leotard, you become very aware of every imperfection.  I don't know where these thoughts came from initially.  I don't remember ever being told I needed to lose weight.  I can't pinpoint exactly where or when it all began.  But I do remember that day at camp, and I do know since then it's been an ongoing battle.  Twenty plus years of putting yourself and your body down is exhausting.

Through high school I had periods of gaining weight and losing weight.  Going in to my senior year, I lost a fair amount of weight by restricting what I ate and counting calories.  After many years of believing I was too heavy, I had my first taste of restricting calories and seeing results because of it.  I went through most of my senior year this way, until the stress of going to college caused me to forget about counting calories, and instead doing quite the opposite.  I ate what I wanted, I drank what I wanted, and as a result, I gained weight.  During the first 2 years of college I remember hating what I saw, but not really doing anything about it.  I was desperately trying to fit in, and meet friends, while hating myself and my appearance.  I didn't want to be away at school, I didn't know what I wanted to do, and I began to withdraw a little more each day.  I felt like I didn't belong.

After returning home from my second year of college in 2003, I started to run, workout, and attempted to lose weight.  As I began to lose weight, I also became more strict with what I was eating.  I returned to school to live in a house with three other girls, one of which had joined weight watchers over the summer.  She was successful with her weight loss, and was counting points for all the food she ate.  Looking back now, I realize this was not a good environment for me to be in, because it only added fuel to my fire.  I remember being complimented by many about how great I looked after loosing weight over the summer.  While I agreed I looked better, the voice in my head would tell me I'd look even better after loosing a few more pounds.  I began spending more time in my room, and reading message boards for "thinspiration".  I only allowed myself to eat certain foods, I counted every calorie, I went to the gym early in the morning to avoid as many people as possible, and I began to lose interest in the things that I once enjoyed.  I grew increasingly moody due to the lack of food and always feeling hungry.  All I could focus on was what I was going to eat that day and how much.  At the time I didn't see anything wrong with this.

When I returned home for Christmas break, I continued to follow my new eating habits, counting calories, and spending a lot of time on the treadmill.  The thought of returning to school in January gave me a lot of anxiety.  I became depressed.  Nothing felt right anymore.  I didn't want to see my friends.  I didn't want to be around anyone.  I spent most of my time in my room, on my computer, reading about people with eating disorders, looking at pictures of thin actresses, and believing being thin like them would make me happy.  I spoke to my mom and told her that I didn't want to return to school in January, and I didn't.  I got a job working at a (not so busy) tanning salon 5 hours a day M-F.  A good day for me was waking up, eating a few bites of food, or none at all, going to work, coming home around 2:30, eating a very planned out "lunch" of 200 or so calories, going for a run to burn them all off, staying in my room until "dinner" and going to bed having consumed 800-850 calories that day.  Anything more than that and I was upset.  I lost a lot of weight.  

Two of my friends grew increasingly concerned and decided to call my mom to inform her of what was going on.  My mom had noticed I was losing weight, but I think maybe she was in denial of what was going on.  The three of them confronted me and urged me to get help.  At the time I was angry.  I reluctantly agreed to see a therapist to keep everyone quiet.  (I have tremendous guilt now for the hurt that I caused to the people I love the most from my selfish behavior, and inability to see anything else but my disorder.  Many people tried to help me, and I would not accept it.)        

Over the next few months I saw a therapist weekly, I was put on antidepressants, and I began gaining weight.  I was constantly watched.  I felt like a prisoner in my home and my body.  I didn't know what to do.  And then I did something that I will forever regret.  I made myself throw up after feeling as though I had eaten too much.  I don't remember exactly when it occurred, or where I was.  I do know it took a couple of tries before I was "successful" for the first time.  This began what I consider to be the darkest years of my life.  It's very difficult for me to talk about.  It's disgusting, shameful, and embarrassing.  I wish it had never happened that first time.

I thought this was my way out.  This was my way to eat when I needed to in front of people, and then get rid of it after.  Well, it didn't take long before I was making myself vomit multiple times a day, some days up to 5 or 6 times.  I would stuff myself with large amounts of food, vomit, and repeat.  It was awful.  This went on for a couple of years, until I was confronted by my mom once again.  I had never felt so ashamed in my entire life.  However, I couldn't stop.  I realize that sounds ridiculous, and it is probably hard to imagine if you've never experienced anything like this.  Eating disorders grab a hold of you and don't ever let go.  It is a constant battle quieting the voices that tell you you're not good enough and you need to lose weight.  At the time, it is difficult to imagine the potential for lifelong effects.  All your mind can focus on is food and weight.  Nothing else matters.  It's an addiction, just like drinking or smoking.  The difficult part about eating disorders is that you can't avoid food completely to brake the addiction.

I never really felt the effects of what I was doing until recently.  Over the years, the self-induced vomiting became less frequent, but would still occur from time to time.  I wanted to be healthy, but after years of being extremely unhealthy, I didn't really know how.  August 17, 2013 was the last time I made myself vomit.  Admitting that fact is one of the hardest things I have ever done.  My secret is out.  The following day (Sunday), I ran a terrible race and am lucky that nothing bad happened to me due to being extremely dehydrated.  After many many years of restricting calories and eating then purging, I finally felt the effect of the damage I was doing to my body.  After that race I made a promise to myself that I would NEVER force myself to vomit again.  I have not done so since.

About a month ago, I went to a GI doctor try to figure out a cause of the stomach and digestion issues I have been experiencing for years.  I had blood drawn, a colonoscopy, and upper endoscopy.  What they found was inflammation in my esophagus from stomach acid, as well as inflammation in my intestines.  I was diagnosed with IBS, and given two different prescriptions to take.  One every day in the morning, and one before each meal.  I am very certain that this is due to the years and years of abuse I put my GI system through.  Now, I have to deal with the lifelong consequences, and the daily stomach discomfort.  

Why am I sharing all this?  Mostly for myself as a final attempt to close the door on a rough chapter of my life, and look towards a better, healthier, more confident future.  The other reason is for the hope that I could help even just one person to see how horrible and dangerous eating disorders are.  They absolutely are not worth it.  They do not help anyone in any way.  I gave away too many years of my life and the only things I got in return are a damaged GI tract, scars on my knuckles from making myself vomit, way too many unpleasant memories, embarrassment, shame, and guilt.  Eating disorders are very real and very dangerous.  They are difficult to talk about, but I think awareness is very important.

I know that the bad thoughts will return from time to time, but I feel fully ready and willing to put up a fight and tell them to go away.  It's been a very long road, but I finally feel like I have won.

If you have any questions, please ask, I will do my best to answer them.    

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Jingle Bell Half

On Saturday, December 14, I ran the Jingle Bell Half Marathon in Atkinson, NH.  My friend, Lori, had asked me if I wanted to do it with her.  I was a little unsure about committing to a half marathon in December, in NH, but she had just committed to running the Vermont City Marathon with me in the spring, so I figured I owed her one.  The Jingle Bell Half would be my last race of 2013, and put an end to a long, but rewarding, year of racing.

As race day approached, I became more excited about having one more half marathon to finish out the year.  My training lately has been going great, and I've been seeing and feeling a lot of improvements.  I PR'd the half marathon in Boston at Boston's Run to Remember in May, but have struggled to finish close to that time since.  I only finished under 1:50 one other time this year recently, at the Seacoast Half Marathon in November.  I didn't verbalize a time goal for this race.  Most importantly, I just wanted to have fun and finish the year with a good memory.  But, in the back of my mind I know I was hoping to finish sub-1:50 and as close to my PR time as possible.

The week of the race, I did as most do, and began checking the weather forecast for Saturday.  Apparently Jack Frost wanted to remind us it was winter in NH.

I would have been happy if the temp had actually reached 15 degrees that day.  Instead, we were hit with 9 degrees at the start, and a balmy 12 degrees at the time of the finish.  It was cold.  Due to the weather, and the elevation chart I figured I should take a look at…

My goal for the race quickly turned in to:

Race morning began as most do.  Wake up, make coffee, drop a nuun tab in some water, check twitter, sit on the couch, eventually eat a gluten free bagel with peanut butter and jelly, then begin to get dressed and gather my race day essentials.  I dressed lightly for the hour ride to the race, but made sure to pack extra layers and a change of clothes for after so I didn't freeze on the ride home.  In case you're crazy like me, and end up running a half marathon in single digits…here's what worked for me: Oiselle new lesley tights, winona tank, 2 lux layers, and the flyer jacket.  I also wore a headband to cover my ears, gloves, and a neck warmer.  

Flyte tank instead of winona, and only one lux layer,
but these are my go-to layers to stay warm.

Thankfully, the race started (and finished) at the Atkinson Country Club.  This meant a warm room and bathrooms before the race, and motivation to run as fast as possible to return to the warmth after.  We stayed inside as long as possible, until we were told to get our butts to the starting line.  Ready or not, it was time to run.  

Lori and I staying warm for as long as possible

We gathered at the starting line somewhere around the middle of the pack.  We jumped up and down, did some last minute stretching, and thankfully after just a few minutes, it was time to go. 

This is my pretending to be excited face.

To my surprise, once we started running, I didn't feel as cold as I thought I was going to.  Again, thankfully, there was no wind, which helped make the cold somewhat bearable.  Lori was aiming for a PR and told me she was going to try to stick with me as long as possible.  When we started she took off and was in front of me for the first mile or two.  I didn't try to catch up to her, I've made that mistake in other races before.  I just tried to stay calm and run my own race.  Unfortunately, my Garmin was set on kilometers, which I didn't realize until I started running.  I decided to stop my watch, switch back to miles, and start it again at mile 1 so I would at least know what my pace was like.  So dumb.      

I don't remember much of the course.  It was mostly through residential areas.  There was a section that was on a main road, with cones along the right side of the road that we were supposed to stay inside of.  We basically had to run single file, which made it difficult to pass people.  I felt better than I had expected running up and down the rolling hills that were promised on this course.  Lori was now running right by my side, or slightly behind me until mile 8 or 9, which helped to push me forward.  It was around that time that my ears started to feel cold and I became very aware of just how cold it was.  Looking around, most people had frost on their headbands, hats, gloves, water bottles, and beards.  It was pretty funny actually, but also a constant reminder of how cold it was.  

At mile 8 I struggled to chew a shot block that was pretty frozen at that point.  So was the water I attempted to drink after.  I still felt good while running, but needed something to take my mind off the cold.  I pulled out my iPod and frozen ear buds and started listening to music that would carry me through the rest of the race.  The miles went by pretty quickly.  My face felt numb, but other than that I felt good.  I pulled up my neck warmer a few times to try to breath in to it and warm my face.  It worked for a couple minutes, but the cold air always found its way back in.  

Around mile 10 I started to pick up the pace a bit.  Since I didn't start my watch until the first mile, I wasn't really sure what my time was at that point, but I tried to figure it out based on what I thought I ran the first in.  I thought I would be close to a PR, and definitely sub-1:50 as long as nothing crazy happened.  I felt myself running faster with each mile…11…12…13.  I was passing people who had passed me earlier in the race.  As I climbed the last hill to the finish line I gave it all I had left.  

1:47:59…8:15 av pace.

Not quite a PR, but it is my second fastest half marathon time.  The course in Boston I PR'd on was the flattest half I've done, so given the elevation and the cold, this felt like a PR to me.  It was the perfect end to a year of racing.  

Side note: as I was typing this I tried to upload the data from my Garmin and it died (again).  I guess my splits are forever lost inside Garmin world.  Sad day.  

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

surprising myself

Earlier this year I ran my very first 5k on the 4th of July.  I didn't have any real expectations because I hadn't ran one before and I had no idea what to expect.  I was told they were brutal.  I knew I would be running hard for 3.1 miles, but beyond that I was pretty clueless.  I ran hard right from the start and crashed at the end.  I finished just under 24:00.  I actually enjoyed the race though and new I wanted to give it another shot.

I ran my second 5k in August and finished almost a minute faster at 23:01.  At the end of September I finished my third 5k in 22:19.  Obviously I was really excited to have finished each 5k faster than the last.  I never really thought I would enjoy running 5k's.  For some reason I had the mentality that if I was going to sign up for a race it should be a longer one.  Thankfully I decided to give the 5k thing a shot.  I think it's becoming one of my favorite distances to race (not just because of the improved times…although I'm sure that has a lot to do with it).

Thanksgiving day I ran my 4th 5k of the year.  I was super excited for this race because it was going to be my first Turkey Trot and I was planning to meet up with Stephanie before the race.  I met Stephanie at her dad's crossfit gym where they were staying warm before the start of the race.  It was around 25 degrees that day and super windy.  We weren't exactly excited about that, but we hoped it would help us run faster.  

The race started at 9, so about 15 minutes before the start we jogged over to stadium to line up.  I warmed up a little on the jog over, but was pretty cold again by the time the race started.  Stephanie and I talked about what I goals were.  I was hoping to PR, but I knew I wouldn't be too upset if I didn't given the conditions.  

My legs felt cold for the first mile to mile and a half.  I kept looking down at my watch and seeing numbers around 7:20-7:25.  I felt like I could run faster, but my cold legs had other plans.  Finally I started to warm up and settle in to a good pace.  I could feel myself getting faster as the race went on and started to believe maybe I could PR again.  When I saw the stadium I gave it my all to the finish.  We finished inside the stadium and ran the last .1 around the warning track in the outfield.  My feel felt like they were sliding all over the place and I felt like I instantly slowed down once I got in to the stadium.  I tried to keep running as fast as I could and crossed the finish line knowing it would be close. 

free race pictures?! hell yeah!

I crossed the finish at 22:04.  A new PR.  I was super excited.  I was even more excited when I looked at my splits and saw that my last, and fastest mile, was 6:58.  I couldn't believe it.  Never in a million years would I have thought I'd be able to run a mile under 7min.  It's been so much fun this year seeing all of my hard work paying off.  I'm usually pretty good at doubting my abilities.  So, it's been a surprise to me to see how much my 5k times have improved this year.  I really think I have more to give too, thanks to my amazing coach.  

Oh, and the best part?  Stephanie got herself a brand new PR too!  It was so much fun meeting her and I am looking forward to running again when she's back in NH for Christmas.  

picture stolen from Steph after the race

told to "do something crazy" and this is what you get. fail. 

Up next?  Jingle Bell Half Marathon on December 14th.  Fingers crossed it's not as cold and windy as it was on Thanksgiving!