Just when I thought things were looking up at the time of my last update, I encountered some more setbacks. A week into March I was plagued with headaches during and after workouts, as well as deep fatigue where sleeping 10 hours a night was not even enough to combat my drowsiness. My training progress came to a halt, and even slid backwards, and I felt as though my body was rebelling against me. A lab work-up was mostly normal aside from a mildly elevated Cortisol and fairly elevated serum Ferritin, indicating my body was still recovering from the trauma, as Cortisol is a stress hormone and Ferritin is acute phase reactant or marker of inflammation (in addition to a marker for iron stores). While relieved that there was nothing to treat, I was also frustrated that there was nothing to treat. I almost wanted something to be wrong, because then at least there would have been a reason for why I was hard core struggling, and there would be something concrete to fix.
However, I did receive a somewhat debatable diagnosis of post-concussion syndrome, which does explain the headaches and lethargy. There was really nothing to do to treat this, other than rest and stopping activity when I developed symptoms. And fortunately the symptoms have mostly resolved and I have only had two severe headaches in the last month or so, both seemingly related to harder training efforts. During this setback I struggled with depression. Having become increasingly overwhelmed with the everyday stressors (time, money, ect.), I found it difficult to cope with the challenges of getting healthy and fit, while also trying to reconcile with the fact that things have not exactly gone as I had hoped and planned (I know, beating a dead horse here)!
I was feeling stuck, when my parents offered an early birthday present (and a way to get grumpy Emily out of the house for 10 days): a vacation. I was sick of the cold and gloomy weather and feeling a bit burnt-out at work, so I began to plan my getaway, which was set to be a mix of a train-cation and a vacation. Thanks Mom and Dad!
The first stop was Tucson to spend some time with my coach, Brian Stover; I arrived with the hopes of jump-starting my training, gaining more confidence, and establishing some goals and direction for the upcoming season. My time spent in Tucson did not disappoint. It was great to spend time with Brian, who I had only met in person once before. Though we communicate well via phone and email, it was very valuable to have the opportunity to navigate through some of my struggles and work on getting things back on track with Brian in real life. It was also awesome to be able to train with him and get an inside peek into his life as a coach. I was reassured to observe that some of his other athletes are as equally needy as I am.
During my 5 days in Arizona, I completed a relatively hefty load of training compared to what I had previously been doing, including my longest run and longest ride of 2016! I was so happy to finally be running under 8:00/mile over 7-8 mile runs, even though Brian told me I was breathing too heavily for an aerobic run. One of the things I enlisted Brian’s help for while I was there was my swim. A session with the GoPro at the U of A pool revealed a defect or two in my stroke, that I am now working diligently to fix.
Perhaps the most exciting part of the trip was eating a breakfast burrito the size of my forearm…kidding…it was climbing up Mt. Lemmon. This had initially been off the table given how little training I had been doing, but we decided to go for it.
I was not without reservations (I legitimately thought I might die), and as we began our ascent, I told Brian and the Cat 1 cyclist, James, Webster, who joined us, that I would see them at the top. The climb started off relatively gradual and steepened as we gained elevation. I surprisingly hung on, and did not die. Though I did request some joke telling at about the 19 mile mark to help take my mind off of the pain. I was relieved to make it to the summit and was rewarded with a chocolate chip cookie at the Cookie Cabin.
The Cookie Cabin was the real reason I wanted to make it to the top of Mt. Lemmon, the feeling of accomplishment for pushing my physical and mental limits was only a secondary gain.
As I departed Tucson, I was feeling more fit and confident than I had in many months. I was finally starting back on a training schedule and had plans for a race schedule. More on that to come later!
Next stop was Santa Cruz, California for a long overdue trip to see my BFF, Erin. I had an awesome time exploring the beautiful California Central Coast and San Francisco. I loved running along the Pacific, always on the lookout for sea life; I even followed a whale up the coast one morning. It was incredible!
It was rough returning home and transitioning back to real life, after getting a taste of what it is like to center my days around training and nothing else. My worries were kept at bay while I was on the west coast, and they came back with a vengeance when I landed in Philadelphia, and I spent the first few days back fighting some demons. After catching-up on sleep, getting back in a routine, and reassessing my finances ad nauseam, my anxiety has dissipated and I uncovered my positive energy.
While writing this, it kind of felt like I was repeating many of the same sentiments of previous posts (even the last one). Same story, different day, and no, I am not trying to recreate Groundhog Day in a series of blogs. I certainly do not think that life has ever been easy, but I also do not remember it ever being as hard as it has been for the past year. Though perhaps the trying times of the past were equally challenging, but I overcame and moved on and they became a distant memory. And maybe it is about time that I do that again. Better late than never to stop dwelling on the past, move forward, and accept that a meaningful life is really just a series of challenges strung together. After all, in order to chase my dreams, I have chosen an unconventional path; one without a paved road laid out in front of me. Though I am feeling worse for the wear, I am learning and growing and becoming more resilient, ready to tackle what lies ahead.