Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Oregon trails. With a surprise ending that is not dysentery.

I'm a slow and steady, consistent effort kind of person. I've never crammed for anything in my life. But I woke up with a sore throat two days before we were catching the three planes to our Oregon adventure. And desperate times call for lots of drugs. I crammed all the fruits, vegetables, proteins, vitamin C, zinc, Mucinex, tumeric and medicinal tea I could find into my body and hoped for the best. It worked because by Saturday morning I was fine.
 
We flew into Medford, OR on Saturday night, picked up our rental car and checked in at our hotel, the Holiday Inn Express in Grants Pass, where they informed us that they serve complimentary pancakes from 6-10pm every night! What more could you ask for in a hotel? We ate dinner at The Haul gastropub. I'm not really sure what a gastropub is, but the building was really cool, the food was decent and if you're in the market for some pigs feet (because who isn't these days?), you can buy them there for $3.
 
Sunday we went to Oregon Caves National Monument, a marble cave system in the Siskiyou Mountains. It was discovered by Elijah Davidson in 1874. Well, actually it was discovered by his dog Bruno, who chased a bear into the cave, and Elijah followed. You just never know what you're going to find when you go bear hunting. President Taft made the caves a national monument in 1909. Now it's a pretty sweet set-up, with cave tours, a visitors center, café, giftshop and lodging at the Oregon Caves Chateau. We did the 90 minute general cave tour (you're not allowed in the caves without a guide and they don't let you bring any backpacks, purses or food in there). It was warm at the park but the temperature in the caves was only about 44 degrees. It was really neat to walk around in there. My favorite room was the one that looked like it was covered in jellyfish. After the tour, Pete and I walked the No Name Trail, a short little loop that goes into the Siskiyou National Forest.
 


 
Monday we embarked on our 3 day running adventure on the Rogue River Trail with Orange Torpedo Trips! OTT has been leading rafting trips since 1969 and 5 years ago they also added raft-supported hiking and running trips. Our guides, Mike and Stich, were both very experienced rafters who have been around almost since the company's inception. Needless to say, we were in good hands. Sunday night I was pretty nervous. I was worried about being slow and holding back the rest of the group. But as it turned out, Pete and I were the only runners and most of the time we had the trails all to ourselves. Rounding out our group was a retired couple from Washington who planned to hike some of the trails and raft other sections. We also met up with some self-supported hikers and a hiking group from another rafting tour company at the lodges. Let me tell you, raft supported running is the best! Pete and I ran the whole 42 miles over the 3 days, but there were plenty of places each day to meet the raft and get a ride if you didn't want to run or hike the whole way.
 
On Monday at 10am, we met at Orange Torpedo's shop in Merlin, OR and packed our stuff in the dry bags they gave us. Then the van drove us to the start at Grave Creek, which is an ominous sounding trailhead. It starts uphill too. The first day was the shortest at about 10 miles, but it was supposed to be the most difficult because of the steep uphills and downhills. I think my perception of hills may be skewed because I didn't think it was too bad. The hardest part of this day for me was that we didn't start running until 11:30 and it was already pretty warm by then. The trails were beautiful singletrack, with gorgeous views of the river and canyon. We met the raft about 4 miles in and Mike and Stich had lunch all set up for us, then we ran to Black Bar Lodge, where we spent the night.
 


 
 
The cabins were rustic but comfortable. We had a double bed and a single bed, our own bathroom and even an outlet (not all the cabins have outlets because even though they say no hair dryers, some people don't listen and then it overloads the generator, so they have slowly been getting rid of the cabin outlets). The electricity shuts off between 10pm and 7am but there is hot water all the time. Plus it's a built in wake up call - just leave your light switch in the on position and the lights will wake you up when they come on at 7. Black Bar served us a family style dinner at 7pm and breakfast at 8am. That night, we were talking to the hiking couple in our group. They have been married for 49 years and I asked them "What's the secret?" He said "Sense of humor, compromise, and grow together not apart." Some wise words on the Oregon Trail.
 
Tuesday morning, Mike ferried us across the river back to the trail and Pete and I headed out for 15 miles, stopping to meet up with the raft a few times along the way to get food and water. Getting an earlier start definitely helped and the first 10 miles seemed to fly by. There were some hills but the whole trail was very runnable. We only stopped to walk for safety in a few places where the trail was very narrow, with loose rocks and a steep dropoff down to the river. There were some sections through tall grass and I was really worried about ticks, but it turns out that Pete is the real tick magnet. He got four ticks (luckily we were checking often and found them before they had a chance to burrow into the skin) and I got none. Sometimes it's nice to be unpopular. After lunch, we ran the rest of the way to Marial Lodge, where we spent the night. Both lodges were nice but Marial was my favorite of the two. The food was excellent, the owners were friendly and funny, and sitting out on the back deck with such a sweet view was a great way to relax after a long, hot day of running.
 



Wednesday morning, we headed back to the trail for our final and longest leg, 16 scenic miles including shady, fairytale-esque forests, spectacular canyon views and beautiful waterfalls. They definitely saved the best for last. I saved my best shirt for last too, representin' TrailsRoc on the Oregon Trails. Pete and I wore our Montrail Rogue Racers all 3 days, perfectly fitting for adventures on the Rogue River Trail. This was my favorite day on the trail, until the last few miles. There was a lot of uphill, which wasn't too bad, but it got very warm and the trail veered away from the river, then went through a long meadow and ended rather anticlimactically in a small parking lot. The meadow part was kind of confusing and we weren't really sure where to go after that. I saw the sign for Foster Bar and thought we had to take the road that way, but Pete disagreed. We had started out down the road and were just about to turn around when the van found us and gave us a ride to the boat ramp at Foster Bar where the rafts were. Let the record show that this one time I actually knew where we were going! We had lunch by the water, then the van drove us the two hours back to Orange Torpedo's store, where we packed our stuff back in our rental car and headed to the hotel. I can't say enough good things about Orange Torpedo. Our guides were very knowledgeable and fun and we had a fantastic time! At 33, I was the youngest person in our group and I was in awe of our guides and the hikers. I can only hope I'm that active and awesome in 30 years.



 
The rest of this trip is kind of a blur to be honest. Thursday morning Pete and I drove to Northern California to Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. The trees there are just freaking ginormous. It was an exquisite kind of torture, to be in this giant wood playground and not be able to climb on everything. But I think that sort of thing is frowned upon, it being a preserved national forest and all. Thursday night we went on a Hellgate Jet Boat Tour in the Rogue River. It was a lot of fun and the pilot (he kept calling himself a pilot even thought it was a boat not a plane) did a lot of spins and made sure we all got splashed. The boat tour included dinner, which was ok. I was more interested in the people watching than the food. We were sitting across from a couple who had retired in 2011 and now lived out of their RV, so we asked them a lot of questions about RV life. Their main advice was to buy your last RV first (they were already on their third one) and to make sure you can see the TV from all angles so you don't get a crick in your neck (they were adorably proud to report that their current RV has 4 TVs).
 

 
 
Friday we drove up to Crater Lake. We had asked our guides what we should do with the rest of our time in Southern Oregon and everyone said Crater Lake is the thing to see. It totally is. It's the deepest and clearest lake in the US, formed 7700 years ago when the volcano Mount Mazama collapsed and formed a caldera that, over time, filled with rainwater and snow runoff. I can't even explain how breathtaking the views are there. And I'm not just talking about this guy:
 
 
 
 
So we were driving around Crater Lake, stopping at the different trails and scenic overlooks, and we walked up the Wizard Island overlook trail. I was thinking about how I always have the best time with Pete no matter what we're doing, and wondering how in the world I got so lucky that this is my life: traveling, running, adventuring and loving every minute of it. I was simultaneously thinking there is nowhere else I'd rather be but also wishing all our friends at home could see this because I know they'd love it too. Pete hugged me and we were just standing there, hugging, enjoying the crazy awesome scenery at this amazingly clear blue lake, with the clouds and mountains perfectly reflected on its surface. Then Pete said something and I heard sounds but my brain, unable to make sense of reality suddenly crashing into the thing it had always deemed impossible, found them incomprehensible. I said "What?" and then Pete asked me to marry him, again. In the most decisive and without-a-doubt moment of my entire life, I said "Yes!" And he said "Well that was easy." As we were walking back to the car to continue on to see the rest of the lake, I started wondering if it had been a dream. I had had a lot of bad dreams earlier in the week. Then the night before they had taken a turn for the better when I found my dream self at a place where you could pet baby bears and I was hugging a soft, white baby polar bear and it was the best ever! Then Pete said something like "So you're my fiancée now, right?" And I said something like "Yes, I guess I am!" And Pete said "That was the hardest thing I ever had to say and you made me say it twice!" Pete said we'd get whatever ring I wanted, but I've never understood the whole ring thing. If you're into that sort of thing, great! But I wouldn't know a karat from a carrot. So we bought Crater Lake T-shirts and bumper stickers at the gift shop.
 
I was expecting to get a sunburn in Oregon, not a fiancé. But life is nothing if not full of awesome surprises. I mean, we had talked about buying a house together and all that someday stuff. But I was pleasantly surprised to find out that someday was starting now. And it was perfectly PEN. No bended knee or ring or other people's traditions that I've never understood. Just us and the trails around this indescribably gorgeous volcanic lake. Just a simple question and answer to commence Pete and Jen's most excellent adventure.




 
And the captain said, "Engage!"
 
Lyric of the moment: "To settle for and settle down never really crossed my mind. Oh I’ll be living dangerously with you instead..." ~ Sondre Lerche "Living Dangerously"

The Trails Of Our Lives: Stacey

These are The Trails Of Our Lives, the stories of our adventures, our demons, our victories, in running and in life. If you're interested in participating, please email your story (how you started running, how you ended up on the trails, your struggles, your triumphs, your photos, anything you want to share) to jen@fromrobotwithlove.org.

This is the story of Stacey. She brings strength and determination to everything she does, and it has been a joy to run and hike with her on the trails of Rochester and the Adirondacks. We are all so excited for her next wonderful adventure, that of being a mom!


The Trails of our Lives: Stacey

I would say my “running” journey really started when I fell off my growth curve.  I was consistently in the 5 percentile of height and weight and was always a small person.  Sometime around age 11 I think, I fell off.  I guess that means I was not growing at an expected rate and doctors became concerned of my well-being.

My mom tried making me these really nasty shakes to drink to gain weight, but they were gross, so I didn’t drink them.  My options came down to joining a sport.  The idea was that if I exercised I might eat more, intake more calories, and work toward some sense of normalcy. 


So I joined soccer…. Why? Because that’s the only sport anyone in Kendall seemed to do and I had some friends who did it. 

 I did not enjoy soccer.  Not anything about it.  I couldn’t kick the ball far.  My passing was poor.  I had no agility and trying to keep people away from the ball with my small body was nearly impossible. 

Socially?  Well that wasn’t any better.  I wasn’t good; I didn’t fit in and I was still too small…



What did I gain from soccer?  Running.  I sucked at that too.  But the more I ran the more I could run… so running became less and less sucky as the years went on.  I wasn’t a good runner.  But practice made doable.

In 8th grade we started our first ever Kendall Track and field team.  I joined and continued this until 12th grade.  I tried every skill possible, again, wasn’t good at anything.  I found out with “distance running” that the more I just ran, the better I got.  So I competed in the 1500m and 3000m events.  Mainly because no one else would do them because they are the “boring” races.  I learned that the more I ran, the further I could go. 

I did O.K in Track.  My fastest times weren’t anything to wink at.  I think a 6:20 for 1500 and maybe 13:45 for 3,000?  So I never went far with it, but I could compete.  And for the first time in my life, I felt on the same level as other peers (in a sports like situation). 

 

Joining XC in 11th grade was a relief for me.  I wish I had joined sooner but my stubborn personality wouldn’t allow me to quit soccer until I was forced to by being cut from the team.

I didn’t want to take XC to seriously because it was considered the sport of losers… the ones that didn’t make it elsewhere.  I enjoyed it inside.  As a compliant child I followed my coaches direction and naturally got better with more practice.  Again, no times to wink at but I do remember getting a 22:something for my fastest time All this data is stored somewhere… I just don’t have it on me. 

I enjoyed the XC races more so than track.  I liked running in the woods.  I liked pushing myself forward.  I liked the competition that I had.  I also liked being on a small team with only boys.  They didn’t make fun of me or judge me.  I felt more like I belonged. 

 

I went to college and decided not to run XC there.  The idea of trying hard and getting up at 5am and having weekend meets was unappealing to me.  My goal in college was to make some friends.  Which in retrospect being on a team would have helped, but I was too afraid of judgment.

I did finally hit 100lbs my senior year of HS.  Over the years I kept trying to eat more and more.  Throughout college and grad school I tried to learn how to shove ungodly amounts of food in my face because I was still underweight.  I became a fan of the garbage plate.  2 cheeseburgers, mac salad and homefries were my go to.  Some weeks I would have up to 3 plates.  Eventually I was able to get my weight to about 110 but never quite saw 115.  I started to finally fill out and feel “normal.” But my health had to take a serious toll in order to look “normal.”

 

Fall 2007 when I was writing my senior thesis I started having gallbladder issues.  I would have serious attacks leaving me in excruciating pain.  Doctors appointments, medications, no sleep at night.  It was horrible.  I briefly changed my diet.  I finished school a semester early and stress subsided a little.  It wasn’t long until I went back to old eating habits. 

Running literally took a back seat in my life until after graduate school.  When I got a full time job the idea of only being busy for around 40 hours a week was a vacation to me!  I was usually out of the house for 14 hours a day during grad school between classes, internship, and work.  I went 2 full years without a day off  (including holidays).  So in all my spare time after graduation I went to the bar a lot mainly because my friend went though a break-up at that time and I guess I was the wing girl…  I eventually met my husband….. so it all wasn’t bad. But I also decided I wanted to start running again.  Maybe do some 5Ks or something.  I was afraid though.  I was afraid I would lose weight.  But deep down I knew I wasn’t healthy.  I knew my insides were suffering. 

Then in February 2011 I decided I wanted to push myself.  Accomplish something.  I had been out of school for going on a year.  I had passed my LMSW exam in January and felt I literally had nothing of significance to work on.  So I thought.  I’m going to train for the flower city half.  I didn’t push myself.  Set a reasonable goal to finish under 2 hours at about a 9 min/mile pace and I passed my test.  From then on I began to run more and more.  Trying to run further and faster.

 

I started to interact more with other running friends.  I ran a couple ranger relays and again, started to feel a part of something again.  Although things were getting better I thought back on my XC days and missed the woods.  I desperately wanted to get back to them.  But I didn’t know how to go about doing that in adulthood.  And being a woman and not knowing where to go. 

Concurrently I was comparing myself to others.  I got caught up in comparison and began obsessing about getting better and faster.  Constantly pushing and pushing and injuring and injuring.  I suffered on and off with injuries for years.  It was horrible.  I was constantly reading articles on line on how to get better and making training plans when I should have been doing other things.  Running was the only thing I felt I was accomplishing in life.  Sure I had my masters degree a stable job, bought a house in 2012, got married in 2013.  For some reason I was not feeling fulfilled and concentrated all my energy on running…. It became an obsession and it wasn’t healthy.    

In Spring 2012 I started trail running.  We had been in our house almost a year and moved right down the street from mendon ponds park for a reason.  I ventured out alone and after a few tries I finally learned the esker trail.  I signed up for the mendon mauler and boy it was excruciating!  Of course I suffered injury after that since it was a common theme at this point.  Got things straightened out and continued to plug along. 

I started running with #trailsroc Wednesday morning crew in October 2012.  I worked on my tail running skills and also started meeting people and developing friendships.  But as mentioned earlier I was never satisfied… always pushing forward.  I ran myself into the ground August 2013 before our wedding.  Stress was high and doctors think I may have passed a gallstone resulting in pancreatitis and a 3 day hospital stay.  I knew things in my life had to change.

I started putting energy elsewhere. So I started a business…. Continuing to strive for happiness.  Working around the clock again.  I also completed my 62 hours of EMDR training and was still pushing myself with running.  Again, I knew it wasn’t healthy and I was supposed to be making changes.  I became injured again mid fall…   Despite pushing and pushing, I wasn’t getting any happier, and better at anything.  Everything was suffering.  I was stretching myself so thin I wasn’t putting my energy where it matters… family, friends, myself…  

January 2014 I think I finally made some changes in my life.  I started to adopt a vegan diet.  I Really worked on being healthy.  Committing to beliefs and morals.  Slowing down my competitive drive.  I unfollowed running magazines and anything that posted articles on running on how to be faster and better.  I had to stop obsessing about the need to be better.  I had to accept my limitations.  Take things slow.  And function within my means.  This was (and is) really hard for me.  The running mentality is about pushing forward no matter what.  Going past your means.  Overcoming suffering.  But ya know what.  It wasn’t worth it.  It wasn’t worth my health, my family.  I became angry at these slogans.  Why are people pushing people like me into injury after injury?  Besides I should just keep going… it’s what the poster says I should do….

October 2014 gave me permission to really listen to my body when it was confirmed I was pregnant!  This was a wonderful gift for me physically and mentally. I have been doing what my body allows.  Still working on my business.  Still striving forward for accomplishments, but being a bit more forgiving of myself.  I know I have a long way to go with this.  My body is running a different sort of race right now.  The making a daughter race.  It’s not meant to be fast.  I’ve learned a lot about myself this past year and pregnancy has taught me more than I could have ever imagined.  I’m still worthwhile when I’m not running races.  I’m still worthwhile when I’m running minimal miles.  I still get twinges when I read about people’s running weeks and their goals and so forth.  Sometimes feelings judged because I don’t do that.  I’ve never ran a marathon… I don’t run high weekly mileage.  I don’t always feel I fit in.  But I’ve made some good friends via #trailsroc.  Even though I’m not accomplishing these goals they still support me and I’m still involved in the extreme training group.  Even though I’m mother in training and not training for an ultra, they support whatever my goals are.  And for this I love them all from the bottom of my heart <3 font="">

 

I’m due with our daughter in under 3 weeks.  I can’t wait to meet her.  I know I can handle labor because I have endurance to keep going.  I know pushing myself to hard will only result in injury but my goals is to listen to my body and take it one step at a time.

I do have goals of one day completing a long distance race.  But right now it isn’t on my books.  I have some other things to tend to.  When my body is ready, when my career is ready, when my family and most importantly when I can do it without obsession will be when I’m ready.  I will make it happen.  But right now I learned that running (or rather crazy training) isn’t a priority in my life. Running is something I enjoy.  It is the only sport I can connect to.  It is my sense of belonging and I want to keep it that way. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

Fighting the funk with gratitude

I had somehow avoided having the pre-vacation/adventure/running all the miles freakout. But then life, ever the practical jokester, intervened, and I woke up yesterday morning with a sore throat. Cue cascade of curse words. And then all the feels. Annoyance. Frustration. Fear that I'm going to let Pete down during our Oregon adventure. Profound disappointment at my body for not being invincible and perfect and having the ability to fly, or at least levitate. That train of thought goes nowhere good, fast. So I have learned to fight the funk with gratitude.

Out of all the meat sacks I could have been born into, I was lucky enough to get this one. And yeah, my body never met a cold it didn't like, that it didn't want to invite inside and give some cookies. But so what? It's just being a good host. There are a shit ton of diseases and allergies and other assorted afflictions out there, and I haven't come down with any of them during my time in this ole bag 'o bones. So my body is bad at preventing colds. But it's extra good at hugging and laughing, which I think more than makes up for it.

But seriously, immune system, let's clean this hot mess up ASAP. I have an arsenal of OTC drugs and a bear full of honey and Throat Coat (a medicinal tea I first met this past winter in Alison's pantry. It's quite a magical place.) The tea is...how can I put this nicely?...disgusting. It is on par with tequila in terms of its utter un-palatability. I blame the slippery elm bark. That dude is up to no good. And he smells like black licorice. But the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Or something. I hope that tea works better than it tastes.

It's 24 hours until airport time. And I am determined to evict this cold before then. No more Mr. Nice Robot. It is on like Donkey Kong. I don't even know what that means. I just hope it sounds intimidating enough to send these germs off on their own vacation that is far, far away from mine.

Lyric of the moment: "Those evil natured robots, they're programmed to destroy us. She's gotta be strong to fight them, so she's taking lots of vitamins. 'Cause she knows that it'd be tragic if those evil robots win. I know she can beat them..." ~The Flaming Lips "Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots"

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Even better in the future

During every long run, and sometimes the not so long runs, there is a point or points where The Doubts creep in. I feel tired or uncomfortable. I have a side stitch or my stomach feels weird or something we did at Insanity the day before made my ass hurt like whoa. The Doubts try to convince me that I can't do it. I used to listen to them and get discouraged. But now I know better. I know that the key to distance running, and probably to life, is that it gets better. When it feels bad, you just have to keep going until it feels good again. You don't have to feel bad about feeling bad. It happens. It is not technically "bad," it is just another experience. And the more experiences you have, the more you learn, grow, expand.

I don't know why some people think things were better in the past. Things are better in the present. And the choices you make in the present can make things even better in the future. You can't go back (unless you have a time machine, in which case, let's get up to some Back To The Future style shenanigans), but you can always go forward. You can't change what has already happened but you can change what you do now, right this very moment, and in all the subsequent moments. I think about this when I go through one of those rough spots during a run or on a bad day. It is an experience, it is temporary. It's what I do with it that matters. I always have a choice. I can always choose awesomeness.

Lyric of the moment: "I always could count on futures. That things would look up, and they look up..." ~Jimmy Eat World "Futures"

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Trails Of Our Lives: Sonia

These are The Trails Of Our Lives, the stories of our adventures, our demons, our victories, in running and in life. If you're interested in participating, please email your story (how you started running, how you ended up on the trails, your struggles, your triumphs, your photos, anything you want to share) to jen@fromrobotwithlove.org.

This is the story of Sonia. It has been a pleasure getting to know her on and off the trails. Her kind heart and perseverance despite injuries are an inspiration. There are many adventures ahead of her, including crushing it at the upcoming Ontario Summit Half Marathon!


The Trails Of Our Lives: Sonia


I didn’t start running until about 3 ½ years ago.  Before that, I had never run a day in my life.  I was a very shy, quiet person.  Mostly kept to myself.  Starting after college, I slowly started putting on weight.  I have always loved food and used it many times for comfort.  I am an emotional eater.  I eat when I am stressed.  I eat when I am angry.  I eat when I have been emotionally hurt.  I eat because I am lonely.  I know what I am doing before, during, and after I eat and that it is only hurting me more, but I do it anyway.  After a while, I seemed to always have headaches and everything hurt.  I got winded just going up the basement stairs.  I was never active.  I still have this image in my head of myself sitting on my couch, eating bean and cheese dip as a dinner, and being alone and very sad.  I was disgusted with myself and depressed. 

 

One day I went to Subway for lunch and ran into someone I knew from college.  We became friends again and met frequently for lunch during the work week.  This person started running after college.  We would talk about running a lot.  After a while, I found myself wanting to take better care of myself.  Wanting to come out of my shell and try new things and meet new people.  I thought about what I could do that would be interesting and decided I would start going to kickboxing.  I signed up for a one-year membership in September 2011.  That was the turning point for me.  I loved kickboxing. 

 

Before I knew it I became motivated to lose weight and try running.  As I mentioned, I had never run a day in my life before.  I had no idea what to do.  All I knew was that I was too scared to even try to run outside.  So I started on the treadmill in the safety of my own home.  I tried running and couldn’t even make it 30 seconds before I couldn’t breathe and thought I would pass out.  So I decided I would try to run until that point, then walk, then run again after catching my breath, etc.  That first run/walk only lasted 12 minutes, but I was so happy I did it!  So I started with a run/walk program on the treadmill.  I did it every other day after work.  After a while, I was able to get to one mile.  With the run/walk it took me 23 minutes, but again, I did it!  I started incorporating other workouts like the Biggest Loser DVD’s, pushups, situps, various kickboxing exercises, biking.  After five months I finally ran 1 mile without stopping!  I took me 12 minutes and 30 seconds.  That was on February 23, 2012.  I had lost forty pounds since September 2011.  I was happy again.  I had tons of energy.  I felt great about myself.  I was eating better.  I started feeling more confident and finally decided in March, it was time to run outside.  I did three miles.  By May I had lost 60 pounds and ran my first 5k race on May 20, 2012 at the Lilac Festival.  I ran it in 31:25 (a 10:06 pace)!  I couldn’t believe how much I had accomplished in only 8 months.  And I did it all on my own.  On July 4th I did my first 10k race at the Irondequoit 10k, with a time of 59:03 (a 9:30 pace!)!  I know they say not to focus on time, but I couldn’t help it.  It was so wonderful and despite a bout of shin splints, I felt great! 

 

I was at my lowest weight after 9 months and had lost a total of 90 pounds.  I couldn’t believe how much better I felt.  And being able to find clothes that actually fit me was wonderful. 

 

February 14, 2013 was my first ever trail run with a group and it’s where I was introduced to TrailsRoc.  I had a great time and running in the dark was pretty fun.  On April 27, 2013, I did my first half marathon at the Flower City Challenge.  My goal was sub two hour.  My plan was to start with the 2:10 group and slowly work my way up to the 2 hour group and stay with them.  When I got halfway through, my plan was to be ahead of the 2 hour group, no matter what.  Along the way I found Eric and Sheila running and ran with them for a bit.  Eric was pointing out buildings and telling me what to expect along the way.  After a bit, I continued on my own.  I crossed the finish line at 1:57:39 (an 8:58 pace).  I couldn’t believe I actually did that!  Everything seemed to be going so great, despite some kinks here and there, but like I said, everything I knew about running, I taught myself.  My legs started to hurt all the time.  A local running store I started running with talked about foam rolling so I bought one.  Things started getting better. 

 

Skip ahead to about a year and a half ago…my job at the time was a very toxic environment.  Managers started involving themselves in my personal life.  They started making bigger demands of me and made me take on even more work.  I was extremely stressed and would often go home crying.  I started eating emotionally again.  I stopped taking care of myself.  I was still running but everything else was going downhill very fast.  I started gaining weight again.  I started eating almost all my meals out, especially getting breakfasts at McDonald’s about 2 to 3 times a week. My work environment got worse.  I was being taken advantage of.  It was do as I say, not as I do.  I would get in trouble for talking to other coworkers when they came into the office.  I was told I was no longer allowed to talk to anyone.  A change in ownership of the company happened.  My safety officer duties were slowly being taken away from me.  I was only allowed to work on safety for one hour per week maximum.  After a while, I gave up.  I didn’t even bother to do that.  I was being told how to do my safety job from someone who has zero education in the area.  I was being micromanaged by three different people.  It got extremely bad.  I was getting hurt while running even more.  One day it got to be so bad at work my heart started pounding and I felt like I couldn’t breathe.  I was light-headed and couldn’t think straight.  I was so scared it was my heart since we have a high family history on my mother’s side.  I called the doctor.  They called me back and told me to have my family pick me up from work and take me to the emergency room.  I sat there all day.  I was told it was a panic attack.  I had never had one my entire life.  After I got out of the hospital I called my office manager at work to tell her I was okay.  She said, “well are you still working tomorrow?  Because I have an appointment.”  Wow.  Because I am such a nice person and never want to let anyone down, I went to work the next day, but first I went to see my doctor.  She put me on anxiety medication.  Over that next week, I had anxiety attacks all throughout the workday.  I would go home crying.  My managers didn’t seem to even care that most of my issue was the demands they put on me.  After a few months, I wasn’t getting better.  The doctor increased my dosage and also diagnosed me as severely depressed.  I started going to therapy.  My therapist gave me techniques to use when I had anxiety attacks, especially at work.  One was to just go somewhere and take a few minutes to just breathe.  Since the office was small, the only place I had was the bathroom.  I told my manager once I wasn’t feeling well and had to use the bathroom (panic attack, but I didn’t tell her).  After about five minutes I came out.  Feeling like I had to justify myself, I confided to her that I had an anxiety attack and just needed a few minutes.  A couple hours later, she walked to the bathroom and exclaimed as she went in “I have to go have a panic attack.”  This is the toxic environment I had to deal with.  Things got worse.  I stopped taking care of myself and my house.  I stopped cleaning.  I stopped cooking and ate take out most of the time.  I fell back into my old habits. 

 

Fast forward to January 2, 2015.  I was layed-off from my job.  While it was good for me to get out of that toxic environment, now the stress and anxiety was replaced with not working.  The depression got much worse.  I would get up in the morning later and later.  I barely ate, and when I did it was junk food or fast food.  I just didn’t care anymore.  I ran, but my heart just wasn’t in it anymore.  At group runs or in public, I would put on a smile and pretend nothing was wrong.  Like I wasn’t depressed.  Then I would go home and cry and eat bad food.  I started gaining weight again.  My old job called me and asked me to return.  I said I need to think it over.  I just couldn’t go back to such a terrible environment, could I?  People would tell me to take it.  It was better than being home.  No one really knew how bad it was there, and they just didn’t understand why I struggled so badly about going back.  I cried all the time.  I started having anxiety attacks again.  I got a letter from my old job.  The offer changed and I was to take a 20% pay cut and my safety job was taken away from me.  This was the last straw for me.  I refused the offer.  I just couldn’t go back.  My health was more important than a paycheck at that point.  If I returned, I knew I would end up back in the hospital. 

 

That brings us to today.  I started a new job three weeks ago as an administrative assistant after not being able to find a job in safety.  While it’s not what I want to do long term, the environment is so much better.  The people are really friendly.  No one is asked to work past 4:30.  Once a month they have birthday cake for that month’s birthdays.  Every last Friday of the month they buy the employees pizza for lunch.  Once in a while they bring us bagels in the morning.  I had never worked at a company that actually showed they cared about their employees.  I had my very own office.  Something I never had before.  I’m not being micromanaged, but trusted that I can do my job.  I started walking every day with two other coworkers at lunchtime.  The anxiety attacks have stopped.  I continue to go to therapy once a month.  I have gotten rid of negative people in my life.  Despite all this, I continue to battle my severe depression.  I have gained almost all my weight back that I lost.  I still am unmotivated to clean.  I don’t have people over because I am embarrassed for who I have become.  I am ashamed at basically having to start all over again from where I was 3 ½ years ago.  My running has suffered so greatly that I can barely run.  I think to myself “how am I ever going to lose this weight all over again?”  Very few people know about my anxiety and even fewer people know about my severe depression.  While I get better every day, it will be a long road ahead.  But I know with the wonderful family and friends that I have I will have tons of support.  While I haven’t told you everything about my story, it is a big relief to write this and have people be able to understand, as it makes me who I am today.  I wish this story had a happier ending, but for now, I am taking one day at a time.  For those who are curious, I am including some photos of me at my heaviest and my smallest.

 




Friday, May 15, 2015

The Trails of Our Lives: Jen

I am fascinated by people's life stories. I love that this group of people who took these vastly disparate paths through life somehow all ended up in the same place at the same time: on the beautiful trails of Rochester, NY. Getting to know these people has been the highlight of my adult life and so, with your help, I'd like to start a blog post series called The Trails of Our Lives to share those stories. If you're interested in participating, please email your story (how you started running, how you ended up on the trails, your struggles, your triumphs, your photos, anything you want to share) to jen@fromrobotwithlove.org.

I suppose it's only fair that I start this thing off myself, though I feel like my own story is boring compared to all of yours. But I'm quite fond of how that story has turned out, so I'm infinitely grateful for every moment of it. Here we go. Warning: it's long. And sort of embarrassing. Maybe you should get a snack.

I was always outside as a kid: running around playing kick the can and hide and seek, climbing trees, swinging on and walking across the top of the monkey bars. But I didn't do any sort of organized running until my sophomore year in high school. For some reason, probably because they didn't have any cuts, my dad suggested that I join the cross country and track teams, so I did. At first I was terrible at it, but something made me stick with it. I liked being part of a team, even though that was sometimes stressful because I didn't want to disappoint anyone by running poorly. Somehow I made varsity that first year and even became a captain my senior year. I found track to be a lot more enjoyable than cross country. I liked interval workouts on the track and especially the 1500m and relay events. I started to win some races at our track meets, though I wasn't very fast. It was just big fish, small pond kind of stuff. I remember the first race I won was the 1500m. I had had a bad day at school. I forget what happened, all I know is that I had a lot of pent up frustration/emotions and when the race started my legs just took off. I had no expectation of winning, this wasn't even a possibility in my mind, it just sort of happened. I remember my dad saying "You looked like you didn't even want to win." I really didn't. Other than wanting to help my team score points and to improve my own times, I had no competitive drive. Something about running just felt like something I was meant to do, it felt like home.




I ran two years of cross country in college, then I lost too much weight and the doctors wouldn't let me be on the team anymore. I remember going into college I was worried that it would be too hard academically. Then when I got there, I found out that the academics was the easy part. I mean, it was challenging and I studied like it was my job, but I got insanely good grades. Throughout all 4 years of college, I only got As in 6 classes, the rest were all A+s. At the time I was practically despondent over those As. It wasn't about the actual grades. It was just that I had this drive to always do the best I could do, to put in all the effort, to attempt challenging things and prove to myself that I could do them. Anyway, I was lucky and school came relatively easy to me. It was all the rest of college that I struggled with. I had a hard time being away from home and I didn't feel like I really fit in anywhere. It seemed like everyone was drinking and partying and that didn't appeal to me at all. I had friends, I went out on occasion but for me college wasn't this amazingly fun party that it seemed to be for everyone else and that made me feel like there was something inherently wrong with me. Even if I had had the words to explain it at the time, I didn't think anyone else would understand. So I tried to exercise away the stress. It didn't work. No matter how fast or how far you run, you can't outrun your sadness. I stopped eating, I stopped taking care of myself, I wanted to be as invisible on the outside as I felt on the inside. My parents made me go to these eating disorder doctors. I hated it. It was the most humiliating thing ever, to be weighed and always found to be not enough. I hated that my parents made me go there. I can't imagine how difficult it must be to watch someone you love literally waste away in front of you, but at the time I just wanted them to stop caring about me because I had stopped caring about myself. One day I told my mom I hated her (I don't know why I said it, I didn't mean it and I immediately regretted saying it) and she said "Well I love you." That was the day I really understood what love is.

The doctors told me to stop running. But I would get up in the middle of the night and run anyway because no one was going to tell me what I couldn't do. Until one day, mid-run, I suddenly couldn't run another step. My body just didn't have anything left. That was one of the most important days of my life. It was the day I had to decide which side I was on and the day I chose running, adventure, life. The day I chose my side. I started eating again. I finally grew boobs at the age of 21. I went on to grad school. I didn't feel like Ivy League material but somehow I ended up at Yale. I'm glad I went. I learned an incredible amount of science and math. There was one day in 2004 that I almost understood quantum mechanics. But my heart really wasn't in it.

So I decided now that I'd really committed to this whole being alive thing, I was going to do that shit right. I was going to figure out what it was I did want to do. I got my Master's degree, left grad school, came back to Rochester and randomly got this job at a small executive recruiting firm. I started out making $9 an hour. My dad used to ask me when I was going to get a real job. I didn't know what that meant. A real job, as in one you hate going to every day? I didn't care. I liked it there. Funny and weird stuff happened everyday. But most importantly, they treated me like part of their family. Like at school, my hard work was rewarded there and I quickly became a full-time salaried employee. I started making significantly more than $9 an hour and getting a lot of sweet benefits and my dad stopped asking me when I was going to get a real job. I liked work, but it wasn't my passion. I didn't really know what my passion was, but when I turned 23 I made a list of 23 things I wanted to do that year. I went skydiving, I rode in a hot air balloon, I moved in with strangers. I started to figure out that my passions were adventures and people.

I kept running, though only by myself. One day my friend Adam asked me to go running with him and I was apprehensive because it had become such a private thing and what if I couldn't keep up with him? But I went. And I started to remember why I liked running with other people. Then when I was 28 I decided I wanted to run a marathon before my 30th birthday and I knew I was going to need a lot of help doing that. So I signed up for a half marathon training program at Fleet Feet and started going to the group runs there. I met Eric and Sheila and Chris and John and the RFP crew and running became not just a hobby but a lifestyle. I ran a half marathon, then another half marathon. I hobbled through a marathon, learned more about nutrition and hydration, then somehow ran a 3:49 marathon. In hindsight, I think that race was run mostly on negative emotions from my relationship problems. Once again I had to learn the hard way that you can't run away from your troubles. I had finally found a community of inspiring, supportive, amazing people who had the same drive and wanted the same things out of life that I did. But I was in a relationship that was forcing me to choose between them and him. And no matter what I chose I was failing someone. I didn't know what to do, so I chose the side that I thought needed it more and hoped that everything would work out in time. It didn't. But slowly I learned to choose my own happiness and well being. Lucky for me, my friends are the best, forgave me for my mistakes and welcomed me back with open arms. I am so grateful for past relationships. They made me who I am today. But they were not places I could stay. It's no one's fault but mine. I want a big, adventurous life. I want to go everywhere and be friends with everyone. Other people want different things and that's ok.

I wish that I had learned that lesson quickly, but would take 3 attempts and an injury that I made worse by being too stubborn to take the time off I needed. I tried to run another marathon on my injured ankle and made it to mile 22 before it hurt so bad that I couldn't even walk and I finally realized I was being an idiot by caring about one race when I should be taking the long view. So I DNFed and it was heartbreaking. But life went on and so did I. I took the time off I needed, I did everything I could to get healthy and back into running long distances. I started running trails with #TrailsRoc. At first I was terrible at it (story of my life). I was slow. I twisted ankles. But I loved it. And most importantly, it was far easier on my body. I gradually increased my miles. I met more and more awesomely badass friends who became my trail family. I met Pete and we ran across finish lines hand in hand. We ran 58 miles of beautiful Colorado trails in 3 days and slept in a tiny tent. I ran a 50K and I still can't believe it. It feels like something that happened in a dream. I cannot believe how lucky I am to have ended up here. I hope I get to keep running and traveling and hanging out with my people for the rest of my life.




Looking back I can see now that it was the struggles that shaped me, it was the dark times that brought me out into the light. And I think that running had a lot to do with that. It was my first raison d'être. It taught me to go on when I thought I couldn't go on. It lead me to so much love and laughter. It taught me that I am a runner at heart but I am so much more than that. Running doesn't define me, it just lets all the best parts of me out to play.

If you want to read more about the struggles, see also: Things I don't talk about

Lyric of the moment: "We've been through some things together, with trunks of memories still to come. We found things to do in stormy weather. Long may you run. Although these changes
have come. With your chrome heart shining in the sun, long may you run..." ~Neil Young "Long May You Run" (I like to pretend this song is about robots running)

Thursday, May 14, 2015

On change. And adding more awesomeness to your life

There are two things about life that are guaranteed:
1. It will change.
2. It will end.

That's what makes life so amazing. If you don't like something, you can change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude about it and just wait, it will change eventually. Your time here is finite, so make the most of it. Get busy living it up and making it awesome.

But sometimes awesomeness is hard, man. Making positive changes can be difficult. Breaking bad habits and forming good ones can be a struggle. Totally worthwhile and rewarding? Yes definitely. But, easy or effortless? Hells no. But you can do it. I know you can. Look at you over there, blurring the line between impossible and possible every day. You know that the hard things are the most worth doing. (High fives to those of you who just thought "That's what she said.")

There are many ways to successfully change your habits or achieve your goals. Experiment. Find what works best for you. If you fail, congratulations and welcome to the club. Everybody who has ever succeeded in anything has failed at some point along the way. No worries. Learn from it and try something else. Try again. And again. Try everything until something works.

I only have 33 years of failures and successes behind me so I'm still figuring this stuff out myself. A couple of weeks ago I was making pasta by myself in my house and, standing by the stove watching the water start to boil, I had the realization: I don't think I've ever done this before. I am 33 and I have never made pasta by myself. I'm not talking homemade pasta from scratch. I mean like boil water, insert pasta from box, cook, taste, strain, eat. Sometimes it astounds me that I am still alive somehow.

All this to say, I'm no expert on anything so take this with a grain of salt. A lot of grains, actually. Better make it a whole salt shaker to be safe. But culinary ineptitude notwithstanding, I have managed to build a life that, while not for everyone, jives with my own ideas of awesomeness. And these are some of the things that work for me.

  • Find your intrinsic motivation. It's so much easier to make a change or do something because YOU want to do it, not because someone else wants you to. Don't change because you think you should or because someone else expects you to. Do it for your own reasons, the more personal the better. Do it because it will make you happier and healthier and better able to enjoy this one crazy life you've been given.

  • Find a way to enjoy the process. If you want to exercise more, find an exercise you thoroughly enjoy. If you want to eat healthier, find whole foods that taste good to you. If you want to quit a bad habit, replace it with a good habit that you enjoy even more. It's not willpower or superhuman self-discipline that makes me run consistently and happily. I run because I genuinely love it. This was not always the case. Sometimes love grows slowly. So be patient. Give the process a chance.

  • Find your people. The secret to everything is people. There, now the secret is out. You're welcome. I accept tips in the form of nut butters and chocolate milk. Kidding! It's not really a secret. Inherently, everyone knows this. But I think sometimes we forget and we assume we have to do everything alone. Well, I'm here to tell you that you don't. Most things are much better with company. Especially supportive, encouraging, inspiring company.

  • Be flexible. Success doesn't happen overnight. It takes time and effort. It's not about perfection. It's about adaptability and persistence. It's falling down and getting back up again. It's failing and trying again. It's making room in your life for both spinach and cookies. Though ideally more of the former than the latter.

  • Have a sense of humor. About yourself and your life. I know I say this all the time and that's because it makes all the difference. In everything. Don't cry over spilt milk. Laugh over it. And then obviously clean it up before it gets that stinky milk smell all over everything.

Maybe some of these words will be helpful to you. Or not. Maybe you think it's terrible advice. That's ok too. All roads lead to Awesometown. But we all have to find our own path. I'd love to hear about your journey there.

Lyric of the moment: "I wanna live life, never be cruel. I wanna live life, be good to you. I wanna fly and never come down. And live my life. And have friends around..." Coldplay "We Never Change"