runner

Weekend Update

Spend the afternoon.  You can’t take it with you. 

~Annie Dillard

Okay, so I have been slacking on the blogging lately.  Life has been so busy!  All good things, thankfully.  I have not managed any long runs since my last post, mostly due to lack of time issues.  However, I did get in some workouts at the gym.  I have spent an hour on the elliptical with the resistance maxed (and my hydration pack on to add some weight) on two separate occasions- the most recent being today.  When I first started running I couldn’t make it through a full hour without feeling like I would pass out or throw up- even without the resistance maxed.  Now I am plowing through that hour- even with extra weight!  Workouts like that help me realize just how much progress I’ve made. 🙂

I have also been spending a lot more time stretching now that I got my foam roller in the mail.  The first time I used it I had flashbacks of physical therapy as a teenager.  The therapist would press on my IT band insertion point, and I would literally jump off the table.  This was the same pain.  The experience can be summarized in one word “OUCH!”  By the time I finished, it was much less tender, but I felt like I had deep bruises in my thighs for a whole day afterwards.  I am hoping this helps with the long runs!  I am also pleased to announce that I did not have any increased IT band issues after my 13 ish mile run, even without the benefit of the foam roller- something I am taking as an extremely positive sign.

Today I will be going out on the boat with Adam and some friends.  We’ve been trying to cram in as much time as possible out on the water before the weather gets to cold (part of the reason I have not had as much time to run).  It’s nice to get a change of scenery and actually be social (for a change!).  Although I have to admit it gets tiring at times to spend so much time around other people- being an introvert and all.  It is so worth the exhaustion at the end of the day though!  So far we have taken out my little sister- who loved every second of it, and a few of my friends from high school.  It was so great to see everyone have a good time, and especially to spend time with some special people I don’t get to see very often. 🙂

That’s all for now!  Boot Camp starts tomorrow.  I will keep you all posted on how it goes.  In the meantime, I will be thriving.  I hope you all do the same and have a happy and healthy holiday weekend!!!!

Me and my BFF

Home Sweet Home

“The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.

Maya Angelou

I was SO happy to wake up in my own bed this morning. I love my house!  I had the color scheme picked before I ever even moved in.  Every room is bright, tranquil, and happy- even the couch is a cheerful blue.  It has a beachy cottage feel, and is just the right size to be cozy with lots of natural light.  I love that the sun rises and the same side of the house as my bedroom and shines into the windows in the morning, filling the room with a warm glow.

This morning I woke up energized and refreshed.  I was happy to be catching up on my blogging, something that always gives me a sense of accomplishment despite being completely draining at times. I started the day by taking care of my girls (dogs not children), who are beyond thrilled to have me home.  Lucy, in particular, has been wiggling from head to toe in excitement- it never gets old to see it on a bulldog. lol  Once they were settled (and by settled I mean fed and running around like maniacs) I put them outside to burn off some energy while I got down to business.

I have been slacking in the conditioning department, so I popped in “Personal Training with Jackie” and let the torture commence.  I HATE her workout.  No matter how many times I do it, I still struggle.  I’d say it’s because there’s so much upper body, but really it’s just a lot of everything.  She crams an unbelievable amount of hard work into those 30 minutes!  Normally, I avoid upper body work like the plague; but I need to push myself.  That Tough Mudder is coming up fast, and I’ll be attempting to keep up with a marine!  Plus, I have to do strength training and conditioning to be able to run without injuring myself, and I am extremely committed to knocking out those 26.2 miles in October.

My muscles were shaking through almost the whole routine, and I was drenched in sweat.  I was a little annoyed with myself for having lost ground, but remembered that I am still getting over being sick.  I had to pause the dvd a few times and take a breather but made it through to the end.  Afterward, it took a little while to be able to lift my arms.  I may head out for a run later and take advantage of the gorgeous weather, but am glad to have at least gotten one workout done today.

On the agenda for the rest of the day: making dinner for my family and Adam’s arrival home. 🙂  He and his best friend were in Colorado this past week for the Pikes Peak Ascent.  I’m so proud of him.  This was his third time running it.  He’s being trying to encourage me to do it with him next year, but the idea of running 13.1 miles up steep terrain in high altitude doesn’t appeal to me in any way, shape, or form.  Maybe someday…  I’ve learned to never say never with him. 😉  He has a way of motivating me to push my limits.  It’s so refreshing to date someone who encourages my dreams and instead of being threatened by them.  He really is my hero.

First day on new legs…

Man imposes his own limitations, don’t set any”

-Anthony Bailey

I have finally begun my (not so triumphant) return to trail running!

I may have been pushing it, but the combination of rest due to nagging IT band syndrome and my subsequent viral invasion had left me home bound and stir crazy. At the first sign of being able to stand upright and marginally breathe through my nose I was out the door.  I needed to run. 

I brought Penny along to ensure I took it easy and give her some much needed exercise and attention.  We did an easy couple miles with a few good hills.  Penny disappeared frequently into the nearby streams before finally rolling in a particularly large, muddy puddle.  She instantly turned from yellow lab to chocolate.   She was delighted with herself.  I couldn’t help but laugh.  It’s a good thing I’ve gotten past keeping my car meticulously clean! 

The trails were particularly wet and buggy from all the rain earlier in the week.  There was evidence of recent flooding with fine silt covering the leaves of the low lying shrubs.  The pavement and large concrete blocks had been upheaved and oddly twisted out of place.  There were branches and leaves scattered that had fallen prematurely, likely from some violent wind storm.  The whole scene had changed dramatically from my previous run there just a few weeks earlier, a reminder that nature is always changing and evolving.  The bugs, however, were the same- a reliable drawback of trail running.  They swarm so closely that I have frequently inhaled and swallowed them accidentally.  I wonder if it is still bad karma to kill bugs even if it isn’t on purpose… 

Overall, my trail performance was not stellar.  However, I made it out and I enjoyed it.  More importantly, I didn’t aggravate my IT bands- a promising sign.  🙂 

 

Be the Change you want to See…

“Be the change that you want to see in the
world.”
Mohandas Gandhi

Reclaiming my life after abuse has been both the most difficult and rewarding experience of my life.  Last night I took a huge step toward becoming the positive change I want to see in the world.  I was officially voted onto the board for CT-ALIVE, and even graduating with a degree from Yale does not compare in the sense of accomplishment.  I have come such a long way on this journey!

From the time I first left my abusive relationship, I have wanted to get involved and give back to other women.  Participating in Susan Omilian’sMy Avenging Angels Workshops” has only served to intensify this desire.  The women in her follow up group are all amazing, strong, and beautiful people (both inside and out).  They have so much to offer, and I wanted to be like them.  So many of them had gone on to obtain degrees in social work and counseling in order to help other victims.  Several work in healing and advocating for victims of violence.  There is an amazing energy in the room whenever they are together.  It’s palpable.

It was at one of the follow sessions that I got the idea to use my passion for running to help raise money and awareness for victims of violence.  I told Susan how I could use the races I was running to raise money for her scholarship fund and sent an email to CT-ALIVE to ask for their blessing (without realizing that I already knew many of the members of the board).  Susan replied back on both accounts with great enthusiasm and even extended an invitation to join the board.  I was honored.  Then she asked me for my résumé, and my heart sank a little.  I had never volunteered on a board, or even for any organization focused on domestic abuse.  My entire resume had to do with medical work.  I sent it to her and attached the following cover letter:

Dear Members of the Board:

My name is Jenny W; and as you can see from my résumé, I am currently employed as a physician assistant in general surgery.

I have never functioned as part of a board, and have limited experience working with victims of violence.  However, I do have experience at being a victim of violence and speaking out against it.  I have always been a compassionate person, but surviving abuse and living with the daily struggles of PTSD has given me the ability to empathize with other victims.  It is important to me to let them know they are not alone and there is no reason to be ashamed.

I have recently started a blog titled “The Running Thriver” to raise awareness about domestic violence and provide resources and hope to other victims.  I am also planning to use my passion for running to raise money and awareness for victims of domestic abuse.

What I lack in experience I can more than make up for in sheer drive, determination, passion, and enthusiasm.  As someone with the strength and resources to speak out and advocate for others, I feel it is my duty to do so to the best of my ability.  Violence and abuse destroy lives.  I want to be a force in this world against them.

Sincerely,

Jenny W. PA-C, MMs

As I typed the letter, I had a slight sense of dread that I would show up at the board meeting and not be voted in.  I was unsure of how they would react to my lack of experience.  I didn’t know what to expect.  I should have know better.

Stepping into the meeting was like walking into a bubble of positive energy.  In addition to the many delicious snacks, the room was filled with enthusiasm and ideas.  They were eager to hear what I had to say, which I found very humbling.  It was like being in a room full of giants.  They have all accomplished such great things, and here I was just starting out. (Check out my Blog Roll for further info on their individual projects)  However,  everyone was extremely gracious and made me feel completely welcome  as part of their group.  I felt like I was part of a terrific think tank with a single mission to reach victims of domestic violence and improve their lives.  It was completing energizing, a feeling that I typically only associate with working out.

As horrible a situation as going through the abuse was, it would be difficult for me to say that no good has come from it.  After all, it’s given me a tremendous opportunity to meet some incredibly amazing women and find volunteer work that I am truly passionate about.  I also have a new found appreciation for exactly how much inner strength I possess. People who are never challenged in life miss out on ever realizing their full potential.  I, on-the-other-hand, have had the privilege of finding out exactly what I am made of; and that is something I don’t regret at all.  It has made me a stronger, more self-aware person, and (among other things) a better runner.

I would encourage everyone to visit the new and improved website for CT-ALIVE and read more about the work they do.  They are making a terrific impact on women’s lives and provide their services free of charge.  Please consider donating to help support their ongoing work.  If you know anyone who you think may benefit from reading this blog, feel free to share.  Also if you have any questions or comments you can either leave them here or email me at runningthriver@gmail.com.

Victories and Setbacks

“I assess the power of a will by how much resistance, pain,
torture it endures and knows how to turn to its advantage. “
Friedrich Nietzsche

Life is composed of victories and setbacks.  Great victories are always eventually followed by setbacks, and setbacks by victories.  It’s all a cycle. That’s just the way of things. Keeping this in mind helps me maintain perspective.  When I’m doing well, I do my best to enjoy it knowing it won’t last; and when things get rough, I remind myself that it will pass.

In terms of my life and ongoing struggle with daily existence after trauma, I’d say I’m on the victory side of things.  However, running has fallen into the setback zone.  My entire life I have been plagued by knee problems.  As long as I’ve been walking, my knees have popped out of place. The pain and other joint issues associated with this have always limited my running.  When I started using the Vibram Five Fingers (don’t ask me why it’s “fingers” and not toes), I noticed a dramatic improvement in my joint pain.  Basically, I didn’t have any.  I was hurting all right, but it was all muscular.  Everything was going fine and dandy until last week when, deluded with my new sense of limitless, I decided to up my mileage by a full hour instead of 30 minutes.

That is how I became rudely reacquainted with the nagging pain of IT band syndrome.  It’s a running overuse injury that I am all too familiar with.  Initially, I was not aware of its reemergance due to the new location of the pain. However, when it got to the point that even gently brushing anything against my tibial tubercle (the bony knob just under your knee) caused me to jump in agony, I decided to do a google search on “lateral knee pain” and then “pain, tibial tubercle”.  What I found was my familiar nemesis IT band syndrome.  Apparently, if you continue to run when your IT band is irritated, you develop terrible point tenderness –you guessed it– at your tibial tubercle.  So after patting myself on the back for pushing IT band syndrome to new personal heights, I looked up the treatment: six weeks of rest and stretching.  This was not an acceptable option.  Six weeks of “rest” would have me in the loony bin.  I needed to exercise for my sanity sake!  More reading.. there was also a mention of strengthening weak muscle groups- this seemed more palatable.

At the moment, I am trying very hard to limit my running.  I have been spending quality time with the stair climber and doing general conditioning/strength training.  There was a moment or two that doubted I would be able to run the marathon in Oct., or ever.  Of course, then I came back to my senses and realized I would never allow myself to quit.  Plus, if I tried, my best friend Randi would assuredly put me back in line.

Everyone needs a good friend to hold a mirror up when you need it, tell you what you need to hear (even when you don’t want to hear it), and hold you accountable.  Randi has been my best friend since high school; and while I have many incredible, amazing friends who I cherish, Randi is the one I can count on to do all these things.  I, through coercion, begging, and even a little arm twisting, have convinced her to do the Diva Half Marathon with me.  I have been “encouraging” her to do the Hartford Marathon with me as well.  Every time she comes up with an excuse or says she’d never be able to run that far- I assure her that I’m convinced she can.  When her motivation starts to wane or she gets discouraged by running injuries, I do my best to encourage her (like buying her cool running gear and books for her birthday).

I have to finish that marathon, IT band syndrome or not!  I need to prove to myself I can do it.  Plus, I want to show Randi that she can do it.  After all, she is the athletic one!  I would not only be letting myself down if I quit, but also my best friend.  There’s just no way that’s going to happen.

In the meantime, I’ll be training for the NorCal Tough Mudder next month.  On this afternoon’s agenda, time at the gym with my very own personal trainer (my boyfriend Adam- the seasoned marathon runner and Tough Mudder alum)

Another night, another nightmare

“Life is not about how fast you run or how high you climb but how well you bounce.” 

~Vivian Komori

Last night I dreamt I was in my ex-husband’s house.  Even though we were no longer together, I was visiting for some reason.  He had a bunch of company in the living room. including some of his brothers.  I was tired from having worked late and excused myself to go to bed.  When I left, the rest of his guests decided it was getting late and left to go home.  Enraged by the notion that I caused all his friends and family to leave early, my ex came after me upstairs and attacked me.  He wrapped his hands around my neck and squeezed for all he was worth.  I could feel myself being suffocated, gasping for air with no relief.  Then out of no where, Adam (my boyfriend) came in and stopped him.   I can’t remember much of what happened after that because I woke up.

That is just one example of the many nightmares that have kept me up at night over the past two weeks.  They typically come in cycles, but this one has been particularly long.  They don’t always feature my ex, and they are nowhere near as bad as the night terrors I had while I was with him.  However, they are bad enough to wake me up all night and leave me exhausted during the day.  On the bright side, this was the first nightmare I ever had someone come rescue me in, so maybe I’m making some progress.

Sometimes I wish I had a system reset button I could hit when this stuff happens, but instead I’ve come up with other methods (through trial and error) of dealing with it.  The hardest one if trying not to focus on or stress about the sleep deprivation because the more I fixate on it, then worse it seems to get.  Another trick I use is completely wearing myself out.  If I go through a particularly tough workout, many times that’s enough to work out the excess anxious energy.  Plus, it’s usually a great self-esteem boost!  I also try not to eat, watch TV, or use the computer right before bed (typical sleep hygiene stuff).  However, recently none of this has been particularly effective.

One thing that has changed dramatically over the past year is how much better I can deal with this situation now.  I can acknowledge that it sucks, but it doesn’t send me spiraling backward with frustration and despair like it used to.  I can reassure myself that it will be temporary, and I only need to work “X”  more days until I have another one off to attempt to catch up on sleep.  I am also more aware of my negative thinking, and the fact that it is just that.  It doesn’t make me a negative person, it’s just a sign that I’m fatigued or processing more than usual.  I am finally getting the point where I can cut myself some slack, and that is a MONUMENTAL step for me.

So, although I am currently being plagued by nightmares and had an absolutely terrible day of being run into the ground at work, I give this day an A+.  My reasoning: it sucked...A LOT, but I made it through and held it together. I didn’t get down on myself, cry, or allow myself to become completely overwhelmed.  Six months ago this day would have broke me, but today I made it through exhausted and smiling.

In other related news, I managed to drag Adam with me to the gym yesterday and conquered another 15 minutes on the stair master- and we did push ups (and by “we” I mean I and he critiqued)…  It was terrible and wonderful all at the same time. 🙂

A wet, tired dog is a happy dog…

“The great pleasure of a dog is that you may make a fool of yourself with him and not only

will he not scold you, but he will make a fool of himself too.”

Samuel Butler, Higgledy-Piggledy

A wet, tired dog is a happy dog.

Yesterday I took Penny out on the trails with me.  Just the site of her leash was enough to get her filled with excitement.  She ran around the house and yard bouncing and barking like a maniac before finally hopping in the car.   Although she hates car rides- just being in one causes her to drool uncontrollably, she has learned that most lead to fun places.  So, with her tucked in the back, the drooling commenced as we headed off on our adventure.

I’m sure she was relieved that it was only a short ride.  As soon as I opened the car door, we were off!  She tore through the woods filled with delight, bounding off ahead of me with an occasional look back to make sure I was still in toe.  Running with her is a completely different experience than going on my own.  Penny completely lives in the moment and is so filled with joy just to frolick through the woods and spend time with me.  It’d be hard not to enjoy that kind of companionship on a run!  Plus, it’s contagious.  When I am with her, I have an extra appreciation for the pure fun of running and the sites of the trail.  She will frequently meander off to investigate something that intrigues her, and it forces me to slow down and take in more of my surroundings.   Plus,I feel safer when she’s with me.  Not that I have any delusions about her protecting me (labs are not especially well known for their loyalty), but I’d like to think she might help deter a would be attacker.

We ran a couple leisurely miles together before she noticed a stream, and I became invisible.  In her defense, I’m sure she needed to cool off.  She returned to the car a very happy, wet, smelly dog.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Typically, I have to run for lengthy periods of time to decompress and feel recharged, but running with Penny is an instant mood boost.  It’s like spending time with a good friend.  We don’t need to communicate; we just enjoy each others company.