reflecting on 4/15/13

Around this time of year, I always think a little more about the concept of near-misses. Of fate intervening. Of pure and simple luck.

On what will be four years ago Saturday, my mom laced up her sneakers to run the 2013 Boston Marathon. My dad and brother headed to the finish line, positioning themselves under a row of flags, to watch her finish. I had a job interview in D.C., so I wasn't able to attend, but I tracked her on my phone, with texts from my brother, and by watching TV coverage of the Marathon from my dorm room.

I'm pretty sure you know the rest.

 

When we talk about that day in my family - and by family, I mean my immediate core, the four of us together - we focus on how lucky we are. My dad and brother were feet from the bombs. They came home that night with residue and tears on their jackets, unsettling images in their heads. As I saw the area under the flags explode on television, over and over, from miles away, my first reaction was to throw up. I don't think I cried for an hour, until I heard my brother's voice on the phone, after I'd wondered for an hour if they were okay. And then I don't remember how long it took me to stop crying. It felt like years.

I think if you look hard enough, you can probably find pictures of them from the blast. I've never wanted to look hard enough.

I struggle with how to talk to others about the bombing. Though I was the only member of my family that wasn't there, it wholly changed my life. For months after, I woke up frantic from a nightmare where I was in a crowd with my family, there was an explosion, and I was unable to find them. At concerts, in shopping malls, in wall-to-wall people on the Metro, I suffered the beginnings of panic attacks, blindly shoving my way through crowds until I felt like I could breathe again.

I saw my dad and brother flinch as cars backfired. I read the account my brother gave USA Today, blinking away tears.

It changed all of our lives - all four of us. I feel fiercely protective of our narrative, one that saw all four family members struggle with the aftermath before rising above it to triumph. My mother ran the 2014 Marathon, and my father returned to the finish line to support her. My brother threw himself into public service, joining ROTC and now receiving a Marathon-related scholarship for a police academy. I became a runner, determined to turn my fury and fears and grief into a positive force.

It's resiliency echoed by the city. When I walk around Boston as Marathon time draws near, my heart swells. Instead of being cowed or defeated, the celebration has become bigger, more meaningful, filled with love. 

But it's a day that will always be difficult for me - more so now as my inability to run the race has now halted me twice. I'm angry at my own body. I'm angry at the people that hurt my family. I'm angry at others who casually discuss the Marathon bombings without any true understanding of what that day, and its ripple effects, felt like for the four of us. 

We were lucky. I remind myself of that over and over. But that doesn't mean it hasn't been challenging. That doesn't mean that I don't struggle with each anniversary of April 15, spending the entire day fighting off the demons of what might have been. And that doesn't mean that it's easier for me to accept my own failures as it relates to the Marathon. If anything, it makes it harder. My family's fought so hard to cross their own finish lines, to reclaim their own lives after catastrophe. And I've been unable to honor them by crossing one myself.

Ultimately, though, April 15 is now about love. I see it in One Boston Day, the wonderful initiative put forth by the city that's turned the anniversary into a day about service and giving back to the community. I see it in my brother preparing for a life of service. I see it in the elation on every face that crosses the finish line a few days later.

My mom once told me that no one outside of the four of us will ever truly understand what that day, and its aftermath, felt like for our family. And that's true. But what others will understand is how we banded together to move forward, and reclaim the narrative. It's what the entire city did. And it's what I remind myself of each time I find myself questioning what could have been.

Congratulations to everyone running this year. I hope to join you at some point in the future. And I urge you to take a moment to consider what it truly means to continue to be #BostonStrong.

what i learned from shutting down exercise

It may seem strange to follow up a post about a yearlong fitness challenge with an essay on what I learned from stopping exercise, but since when did this blog ever follow a logical pattern? Bear with me, it'll make sense.

After my second fracture in less than a year, it was clear that something was up with my body. And while I'm very relieved that all of the tests showed it wasn't anything biological (nothing says party like finding out you don't have degenerative diseases!), that means it was most likely the product of pushing myself too hard, too soon. So after the second fracture, I was ordered to give myself a complete break for a week or two, and then stay away from cardio for a month or more. No problem, you're probably thinking. Sounds nice.

Except it was a problem. It was a big one. And it uncovered an even bigger issue - somehow, along the way, my internal dialogue about fitness has become completely skewed.

I am really, really hard on myself. At least once daily since I had to back out of Boston again, I've heard a small voice in my head informing me that I'm a failure. And having to shut down exercise, even if it was for my own safety, seemed to enhance the negative self talk to a point where it was scary and dangerous.

In the age of social media, comparison and a constant barrage of media focused on bodies, it's easy to constantly wonder if you're enough. I think it's more common than we all think to doubt your own ability when it comes to fitness and wellness. What I know is that discussing your fears, doubts and harsh treatment of yourself is somewhat taboo. Everyone feels ashamed about it, so no one talks about it.

It was almost easier for me to write a post telling everyone I struggle with normal eating habits than it is for me to write a post that confesses that on a regular basis, I struggle against a really critical voice in my head telling me that I'm not enough.

So, in the interest of ripping off the bandaid, here's a list of things that I question frequently :

  • Are people judging me because I've gotten injured twice in a year?
  • Do I even look anything like someone who is vocal about loving fitness? (also known as the "do I look fat?!" panic attack)
  • Do people judge me in group classes for not being the best one there?
  • Should I even be talking about how much I love fitness and wellness? Do people look at me and think 'no way she actually works out.'
  • If I'm not working out, how am I going to eat?
  • If I'm not working out, what am I going to wear?

And on, and on and on and on and on and on... it's exhausting. It's made me this pretty sad, very critical, shell of myself. I don't feel like me. And it's okay to wonder! It's okay not to always feel super confident. It's okay to go through a rough patch. What isn't okay is wallowing, staying there, and not asking for help. And I get it, that's scary. It was scary for me. But when I decided I wanted to undertake a yearlong fitness challenge, I also decided it was time to get serious about changing the way I relate to myself.

I want this blog to be a space for inspiration, workout discussion and wellness tips and tricks. But I also want it to be an honest place for some #realtalk - and sometimes that real talk is opening up the floor to talk about unhealthy self criticism. I didn't realize how often I was doing it until I took a break from trying to outwork it. And I think it's important to try to raise the taboo on discussing that.

At one point, I thought : wait a minute. If I had a daughter, this isn't how I would want her to relate to fitness. It's not how anyone should relate to fitness! 

Right now, my truth is that taking some time off revealed that I've started to lose my ability to shrug off the comparison and self doubt battles. So I'm going to get a little help regaining my stride. And I just wanted anyone reading this, nodding along, to know : you're not alone! It's okay! Me, too! And tell yourself what I am as I prioritize righting my mental health :

Things will never be perfect. But hurdles make life interesting. Asking for help makes hurdles bearable. How we respond to the challenge shapes us. And raising the lid on subjects that are commonly considered taboo - like scrolling through social media, or looking around in a group class, and quietly wondering if you're "enough" - can end up being a powerful way to fight back against the criticism.

run the world - aka, an airplane read inspired me big time

I've chewed off all my fingernails and ate three sweet potatoes' worth of homemade sweet potato fries at lunch today. Want to know if I'm really stressed out? Check out my nail beds and my eating habits.

Tomorrow I get back the results of my bone scans (Dexa tests, for those in the know) and the mountains of bloodwork I've had done over the last few weeks. Tomorrow, I find out if there's something seriously wrong, or if all of these breaks are just a series of really bad luck. The entire setup is so absurd that I want to laugh, so unbelievable that if it wasn't happening to me, if I wasn't the 25 year old making friends with all of the old women in bone scan waiting rooms - at least I've gotten some good hard candy out of it - I would roll my eyes and assume it's false.

I've been struggling lately with how to bring the joy back into fitness that I once found effortlessly with a good workout. It's harder as the Marathon approaches and I see others counting down, posting excited social media updates, as I sit on my umpteenth stationary bike and will my legs not to thrill with pain when I walk across the floor.

Last week, I picked up a new book to casually start on a plane - Run The World by Becky Wade. And then I couldn't put it down. Aside from being incredibly inspirational from a running standpoint (nothing like reading about someone winning their debut marathon to make you gasp in awe and only a little bit of intimidation), the basic premise is so exciting, so right in my wheelhouse, that I immediately made enemies up and down the aisle of my 11 p.m. flight by keeping my light on for the duration in order to speed through the pages.

With the help of a fellowship, over the course of the book, Becky quite literally runs the world - visiting numerous countries and running cultures around the globe. She learns about their rituals and their rivalries, the food that fuels them and the ways they rest and recover. But what stuck out most to me was the joy that everyone in the book brought to running. Each time they laced their sneakers, they did so happily, with genuine appreciation for what their bodies would do next.

Well shit. I thought as I read. It's been a very long time since I've felt like that.

 

 

When I began running, I hated it. And then I loved it - very quickly. I ran for joy and for fun. Sure, I chased races, but I didn't care about my times, I didn't care about how I stacked up against anyone else and I sure as hell had fun when I laced up my sneakers. And somewhere along the way, I've lost that.

For a long time, I've been motivated by fear. I touched upon this a bit in my piece on my struggles with eating, but it started to morph as I began running. Was my body sore? Didn't matter. I was too afraid not to run. And now, dealing with injury after injury, I'm afraid of how my body will betray me every single time I attempt a workout. That's a really sobering place to be in life, and it's a really terrible mental status to carry with you day in, day out.

I want to be motivated by love. I want to feel deep appreciation each time I grab my sneakers. Hell, I want to have fun!

As the Boston Marathon approaches, I'm starting to get really sad again : sad about not running, sad about the constant barrage across social media from everyone who is, sad that I still feel like a failure, sad that I've been essentially sidelined, again, for the last six weeks. And as the test results loom over my head tomorrow morning, I'm truly scared of what I'll find out. Both things tell me one thing : that I need to use Run The World as inspiration, and undertake my own journey to explore the passion that moves anyone who cares deeply about fitness and wellness.

So, in lieu of running the Marathon, I'm undertaking my own personal challenge. A new challenge. And while I'd like to focus on running, I think part of my own healing and growth process needs to be learning that running isn't my end all, be all - it can't and it shouldn't be. If (when?!) I make my return to serious running, that will be great. But I want to be drawing upon a wealth of experiences, learning and growing and holistically stronger, than ever before.

So, my new challenge to myself is to discover the fun and the power in fitness and wellness in entirely new ways. And as we come up on the Marathon, and the anniversary of my broken hip, in a nod to the fact that I spent the last year fighting myself to get back to running, I'm going to dictate that this challenge of exploration last a year. And like any self-respecting Type A person, I've jotted down some ground rules :

1. Test out one new idea and wellness-related concept a month. It should be a challenge. It should force my outside my comfort zone. I'll be starting April 1, and I'm actually doing two in the first month. One, I'll write about more at a later date. The second? Stretch and foam roll every. damn. day. Because I am the worst at this. Because I hate feeling how weak I've become. Because it's important.

2. Weekly written check-ins. I mean, duh. I'll probably post them here. If you started rolling your eyes halfway through this post, I feel you. Just don't read.

3. Try one new workout a month. (As long as I'm physically cleared to do so.) Because, fun, that's why. Because six days of only running, or only lifting, or only spinning, is not that great for you overall!

4. Interview one woman a month about the role wellness and fitness plays in her life, and why it's so important to her. I'll write about those here, too.

5.  Remember to forgive myself if I fall short. Because I'm kind of sick of beating myself up. Aren't you?

 

The next year of my life is about to get wild. Like, really crazy. Like big life changes crazy. (Coming soon!). But for the first time in a long time, I feel ready to take on a big new challenge, to explore some limits, to learn and grow and get my mind blown. 
 

Thanks for writing your book, Becky Wade. I don't think it's a coincidence that another Becky came into my life to help me out at a time when I was struggling. The universe, baby. It just knows. 

 

 

PS - I'm hoping to get a LOT! of input as I undertake this year-long challenge! Have an idea for something I should test out for a month? A person I should interview? A topic I should cover? Let me know!

the special power of fitness

I'm a morning workout person - getting my workout done before the rest of my day, often before the sun rises, is among my favorite things. And every single time my alarm goes off in the morning, I curse myself. I love my morning workouts - I just love the feeling of being cozy in bed a little more.

But I still (mostly) get up and get going. And on days I hit snooze one too many times, I try to stay motivated enough to sweat at least a little after work. If you had told me years ago that my favorite feeling would be the particular exhaustion that comes from a really hard workout, I probably would have been floored. And then immediately wanted to know how I went from point a (aimlessly spending 45 minutes on the elliptical whenever the mood struck me) to point B.

Well, today I held a plank for over two minutes for the first time since I broke my hip. It's taken me almost a year to fight my way back to this point, and while my left side is still significantly weaker than my right, I was so excited to watch that timer tick upwards that I almost high-fived the poor guy next to me.

It's been so important for me to continue pushing myself, and continue making fitness a priority, in this year of injury. It's been a dogged fight in every sense of the word : many times, I was so discouraged with the pain I found myself in, or the strength I lost... or suffering a stress fracture when I finally thought I'd grasped that elusive clean bill of health.

Even on my worst, most critical, and most dangerously sad days, a small voice inside my head told me that I would get there. Striving to work out became so much more than breaking a sweat. It kept me sane, it showed me that small achievements were, in fact, worth celebrating, and most of all? It kept me hopeful, no easy task in a year where I decided to throw in the towel on my life on at least ten different, bleak days.

It's been really cool to watch my body heal itself. I wish there was a more graceful way to put that, but it just is plain neat to watch your limbs go from lying limply in a bed to jump, squat, run, kick off from the wall in the pool. It reaffirmed what I've come to believe most strongly about fitness: it is the greatest source of self-esteem and pride I've ever found.

At first, I worked out because I was unhappy with myself. I didn't like my appearance, I hated that my days were largely stationary, and I wanted something new to occupy my free time. But I slowly grew to love it outside of the superficial benefits.

I firmly believe that everyone should take on at least one fitness-related challenge in their lifetime. It will likely be hard, you will likely want to give up numerous times and you will likely doubt yourself along the way. But that final feeling of achievement? It's like nothing else.

It's been truly incredible to go from resenting my body, and being fearful of what I put in it, what I dress it in, and how others see it, to being proud of what it can do. Pre-injury, I notched my athletic achievements with a small nod to myself - you ran a marathon, sweet. Now when's the next one? Post injury, everything became something to be celebrated. I was so proud of my first lunge, my first plank, my first time taking steps without crutches. And I began to slowly see my body through a different lens: not as something I needed to control, but as something amazing I needed to celebrate.

I feel like we women spend so much time and energy being at war with our bodies. We are inundated with messages that what we look like is not enough, that we are "less than." You ran a half marathon? Yeah, you can feel good about yourself for .5 seconds, until you check Instagram and see a glowing post about someone that ran it faster. Feeling good about a pair of jeans? Yeah, but you're still not a sample size. Tried a new workout class and make it all the way through? A fitness blogger just wrote a review about how that class was too easy for her.

ENOUGH. Exhausting, right? I can't pretend to speak for all women - men, too! - but I know a frequent theme of conversation with my girlfriends is that it's tiring to compare yourself, to internalize the expectations society volleys your way and to try to live up to the Instagrams and the ads and the magazine covers.

But the thing about fitness is that your only real competition is yourself. And as soon as you begin to achieve, and begin to see your own progress, some of those voices of comparison start to quiet. That, I think, is the special power of fitness. At the end of the day, it's teaching you to carry yourself with pride. Screw what anyone else thinks, you hit a new weight on your bicep curl today. Go girl.

So today, when I finally pushed past the two minute mark, I took a minute to snap a dorky picture of myself, congratulate myself, and truly appreciate how far my body's come. There are (and probably always will be) days when I wish I was a smaller pants size, or decide I'm never going to don a bikini again and will now be living my life in a muumuu, thank you very much. But as I've continued to challenge myself, to learn my limits, and then to figure out a way to push past them, there are many, many more days when I look in the mirror and I'm proud and thankful for what I see.

It partly took breaking my hip to help me get to a shaky truce between my critical mind and my body, which is just trying to do its best. But now that I'm here, I'm excited for what's next. Everything is a challenge to be faced head-on. New stress fracture and a walking boot? I concentrated on developing a weight lifting routine for the first time in my life, and I have definitely gotten stronger. It's so exciting!

Fitness provides a blueprint for overcoming obstacles. It teaches you to remain focused, committed - and positive. One day, you'll be able to do pull-ups. One day, your hip won't be broken. One day, you'll get to run again without pain. And in the meantime, pause the war on your own body. Because today, it's already pretty freakin' amazing.

a recipe for slow (gluten-free chicken parm)

When my mother and I went to Napa, one of the vineyards we visited was small. So small that we had to speak into an intercom before the owner herself waved us in, so small that the owner, took us on an ATV ride through her vineyard, whipping around corners so fast that occasionally a vine would slap me across the face gently.

We stopped at a clearing where she'd held a harvest party only weeks before and she smiled as she told us of how the night had devolved into dancing around a bonfire, the kind of dancing, she said, "that you do because it feels good just to move," and I smiled because I was newly acquainted with the simple pleasure of being able to power your own body freely.

 

It was so small that we retired to her deck and sipped each of her wines, slowly, carefully, as she told us the story of each batch : one round of grapes came from the same season her children went to prom, the other the year they went to college, still another the first she and her husband ever attempted to see through, from seed to glass, in its entirety. The sun glinted off the galvanized bucket that kept the Chardonnay still, and we slowly swapped stories, and I remember feeling as if I could sink into the cushions of the chair and stay in the moment forever. And I wanted to stay in the moment forever.

This recipe is for that kind of delicious slowness.

It is for reclaiming your life from torn cuticles, jumbled to-do lists and Evernotes with scraps of phrases that seemed utterly important in the moment but are now meaningless crumbs, clues to a past mental state.

 

It is the slowness of uncorking a rich red wine after salting your front steps, and watching a storm lazily roll in. It is the slowness of spending an evening in front of the stove, immersed in a boxy sweatshirt stolen from your brother without guilt.

It is the slowness of realizing that a Sunday with time given to yourself, given to your favorite pursuits, the ones that send you to bed with a heart that sighs happily, is time well spent.

It is the slowness of rich, delicious, healthy food. It is the slowness of food that is healthy that tastes anything but. It is the slowness of vibrant, bursting tomatoes and crunchy zucchini and chicken with a hint of nutty coating.

 

This recipe I made up as I went along, pinching dried herbs from their containers, whisking in a confetti of cracked black pepper as I saw fit. You should do the same - experiment, taste test, dip the spoon into the sauce twice to make sure it's just as you like it. Eat seconds. Eat thirds. Be slow.

 

nutty chicken parmesan with homemade quick marinara and zoodles

bonus : gluten-free, sugar-free, tastes like anything but

 

First - you make the marinara. Empty a large can of crushed tomatoes into a pot and slowly heat. Quarter a handful of cherry tomatoes and add to the sauce - I crushed mine against the sides of the pot, with a wooden spoon, as they cooked. Mix in three cloves of crushed garlic, generous pinches of : oregano, basil, parsley, salt, pepper. Taste. Adjust. You'll know when it's done.

Second - Preheat the oven to 425. Whisk two eggs in one bowl. Whisk 3/4 cup almond meal, 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, pinch parsley and oregano in another bowl. Dip your chicken breast (I used chicken breast tenders, adjust your cook time accordingly if you use a thicker cut) into the egg first, than the almond meal mixture. Place each into a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.

Third - Cover the chicken with 3/4 of the sauce, then scatter 1/2 a cup of shredded mozzarella and 1/4 cup of parmesan atop your chicken. Slice X's into the tops of a few remaining cherry tomatoes and scatter them around the pan. They'll sweeten and burst slightly as you cook.

Fourth - Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Fifth - Place your zucchini noodles in a pan with olive oil. Add a little salt and pepper. Stir for under five minutes, mix in the remainder of your sauce.

Serve all together, piping hot. Take a picture and then put away your phone. Pour some wine. Slow down.

balance is bullshit! (when you're embarrassed by yourself)

First of all, thank you so much for all of the kind messages on my last post. It reaffirms what I've firmly come to believe : that the world can throw some daunting challenges our way, but we're all stronger and better for being open and honest about them.

Soooo, in that vein, I'd like to write a little bit today about another subject that makes me want to throw my hands over my eyes, a la the monkey emoji : being embarrassed by yourself. And I'm not talking about toilet paper on your shoe-level issues. I'm talking about being ashamed of yourself. The really dirty secret feelings you have when you're looking at yourself while brushing your teeth.

But also, because I went to Miami and spent so much time dragging my boot around Wynwood, I have some cool photos sprinkled throughout. 

The theme of today's post is the idea that it's okay to not have all the emotional answers. And it's okay to feel like you'd like to punch the below mural in the face for being so clearly zen and smug about it, when an email subject made you cry today. (This is hypothetical.) (Nope, it's not.)

 

I know that the recent spike of self-help books, podcasts and Instagram captions tell us that we need to be gentle with ourselves, and recognize that we're doing our best. Hell, I've written variations of that same theme over and over again. But sometimes, that's just not enough - you still feel like crap.

This week, my bib number for Boston landed in my inbox. This week, I also booked a flight for Boston so that I can cheer on my cousin as she runs it. So at the same time I basically solidified my commitment to being on the sidelines - again - I was handed a reminder that, had I not messed it up a second time, the person crossing the finish line could have been me.

That sucks. There is no other way to put it.

I've been pretty open about the fact that I'm struggling right now, trying to find my footing in suddenly murky waters. I've started to explore other workouts, reminded myself over and over that if my biggest hurdle in life right now is a boot on my foot that it's really not that big of a deal, but the cold, hard truth is that my emotional energy is completely shot. Getting out of bed every morning is really hard. Keeping a smile on my face is really hard. I cried in the shower this morning, and also a little bit in the coffee line (thank god for sunglasses) and I still feel like a giant chunk of me is missing. It's almost as if I wake up every morning to realize a piece of me floated away during the night, and after feeling that way since this time last year, I'm pretty much exhausted.

Oh, and I'm also really ashamed. Every time someone makes a comment about me being "always injured," or "injured again" or "maybe you're just not cut out to be runner," a little bit of me dies inside. In my best moments, I'm embarrassed. In my worst, I've decided I'm a complete and utter failure.

My head is not a really fun place to be these days. And any time someone that means well tries to talk me through it, even my mom, or my loved ones, or my friends, I find myself snapping at them - sorry, you just don't understand. And the truth is, they don't. It's about a marathon, but it's not about a marathon. It's about fighting through a year of loss and hurt and heartbreak to be handed more of it. And right now, I'm just really ashamed that I didn't reach the finish line : physical and metaphorical.

 

I listened to a wonderful Creative Mornings talk recently from Katherine Wintsch. The theme was "Broken," which, I'm not sure, am I the target audience there or what? But at one point during the talk - which you should take the time to listen to - she says "balance is bullshit." And I found myself nodding in agreement. She's talking about work/life/etc balance, but also a little bit about emotional balance. And I'm talking wholly about emotional balance.

I believe that positivity and good self talk and meditation and embracing your story, every shitty aspect of it, are so very important. I also believe that sometimes you need to raise the white flag and realize you ain't gonna get back to your sunny persona anytime soon. When that email about my bib number landed in my inbox, I was really embarrassed. I'm so ashamed of myself that I removed everything related to running from the walls of my bedroom and boxed them up until I'm ready to look at them again. I really want to cheer my cousin on, but the thought of being at the marathon in the face of double failure makes my throat constrict and tighten and my stomach drop. 

 

Balance is bullshit. Sometimes, you're just sad. You're just ashamed. And you just need a little bit of a break from trying to push through. 

Watching that bib number land in my inbox was really tough. It was sort of if all of the negative demons lurking inside my head ganged up to launch a missile straight into my Gmail, determined to remind me that no matter how wide I smile in my day-to-day, I've still had to let go of a dream twice. 

I really want to get back to a point where my energy and emotional stability are happy, balanced and aligned. But right now, they're not, and I think that putting pressure on myself to get them together is the wrong call. I'd like to see "balance is bullshit" become a mantra, sort of a rallying cry for those of us who are more concerned with putting one foot in front of the other than we are with figuring out how the latest setback fits into our greater story. Someday, we may. But right now, if a victory for you means successfully blowdrying your hair in between crying into your towel, damn do I feel you. Balance is bullshit. 

I feel like I'm rambling a bit here, but I also feel as if I'm rambling in life. Some days, I'm super ready to tackle this latest obstacle and figure out what it means in the larger context of my "journey." Other days, I'm not- I'm just really sad. More often than not lately, I'm really sad. In the last year, however, I learned that better things almost always are around the corner from being broken. And I'm hopeful that will ring true the second time around. 

on forgiving yourself, food and running

I've had this post draft sitting, saved, for the better part of a week. It was hard to write. It's scarier to share. But I believe in pulling back the curtain, in writing my honest truth - some may say a little too much - and it's always what I've found most therapeutic.

Have you ever heard of the female athlete triad? It's the name given to three symptoms that, together, create a combination of unhealthy lifestyle risk factors most often found in female athletes. They are : disordered eating, amenorrhea and bone loss/osteoporosis.

In high school, I lost a lot of weight in a very short amount of time. It was the first time I ever liked how I looked. It was the first time in my life that I looked in the mirror and felt proud of my appearance. Every day was a good or bad day depending on how much I restricted what I ate. If I was having a bad day, I wore sweatshirts - even in hot weather. If I was having a good day, I'd wear the clothing I thought was reserved for thin kids : Abercrombie polos, Hollister t-shirts, short jean skirts. Fridays, I'd weigh myself, and the number on the scale would determine my self-worth for the next seven days. And repeat. It got to the point where I would walk with skirts that slid around on my hips so much that their button fly would end up on the opposite side of my body, and I was so cold, all the time, that I existed under a pile of layers.

I think back to sixteen year old Elizabeth, and my heart aches. I want to hug her, I want to tell her to throw the scale out, to have real meals and above all else, to stop basing her entire identity around food. I can think back on the younger version of me with compassion, but I'm having a really hard time treating the current version of myself in the same way.

I cried so much during my second MRI that they had to replace the earplugs that they give you for the machine's noise. The tears streamed down the sides of my face and, because I was lying flat on my back, pooled in my ears until the plugs were so soggy they simply fell out and with a defeated, sad plop, landed on the board I was strapped to. 

It took me 15 minutes to compose myself enough to drive away from the imaging center, and all I could think about was - this is all your fault. In one diagnosis, the mean, small voice that I'd managed to control for a long time had returned.

Today is the end of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. I was never diagnosed with a true disorder, never sent to a treatment facility, but my relationship with food ruled my life for many, many years. In dark, sad moments, it still does. I still get self-conscious about eating in public. I still tell myself I have to earn treats and meals by working out. It's a battle. It will be a life-long battle. But now, it could be possible that somewhere along the way, I did enough damage to my bones with poor nutrition to result in this series of fractures.

This second time around has been so much harder than the first. The first time could have been a fluke, a really awful case of bad luck, the one injury we all suffer at some point in our lives, especially if we're active. The second time is a pattern. It feels like a life sentence. And it's brought up a lot of questions, analysis and discussion of a very painful part of my life and the way I've treated myself.

I have to forgive myself. And I can't. I look in the mirror as I strap on the boot and I curse myself for being so cruel to my body. But when I wake up and my jeans are a little too tight, I momentarily am sixteen again, circling my waist with a measuring tape to make sure it hasn't grown.

One thing a doctor asked me recently is if I thought, perhaps, I'd traded basing my self-worth with food to base it on running. Part of that may be true. But there's another part - which is that running helped me to realize that my body is so much more than something to hate and try to control with a strict diet. When I run, it still sometimes astounds me that my body is capable of miles and hours. I wish I could tell you how beautiful it feels to look down at my legs and, instead of wondering if they need to be skinnier, feeling awed that they just carried me for 20 miles. Running taught me to feel beautiful in my own skin. It taught me that I was enough, just the way I was.

Now, it's been stripped from me for the second time in a year, and this time, it's harder to see the light at the end of the tunnel. It's harder to believe that I will ever be able to run without breaking something, without turning my back on a race because I couldn't stay healthy. It's harder to believe that I'm ever going to get it back. And it's really hard to forgive myself for past mistakes that could be taking their toll on my body today.

But I have also learned so much from these injuries - my own strength. The size of my sheer will and determination, which has surpassed beyond what I ever thought possible. I've been working on reminding myself where I was last May - unable to walk upright, limping, in constant pain, wondering if I would ever have a normal gait again. I fought through that, and I'll fight through this.

So as we close NEDAW, I thought it might be time to pull back the curtain on my own story. Because if you're out there struggling with the same sort of self-worth battles, or you're fighting an injury that seems determined to steal your joy, or if you, like me, are having an incredibly hard time forgiving yourself for your faults, I think it's sometimes helpful to read someone else raising their hand and saying hey, me too.

I don't want my story with running to be over here, and I'm going to fight with everything in my power to continue that chapter of my life. But what I've learned is that you write your entire story, even the really sad, really painful parts. So while I'm angry at myself for failing, angry at myself for setting myself up for these health issues, I'm also working on letting it go. My self worth is not my running, or my eating, or any combination of the two. It is my strength, my determination, my ability to get up each time I'm knocked down. It's my family and friends who have refused to let me stay flat on my back with tears running down my face. It's all I have accomplished and will accomplish. And it's being open, raw and honest so that maybe someday, someone who is fighting her own small, mean voice inside her head, will see that... me, too. And it doesn't have to win.

four things i've learned from a stress fracture, round two

Back when I broke my hip - doesn't that seem like forever ago now, a whole injury ago! - I wrote this post about the things I'd learned from the injury.  It was a little bit sarcastic, a little bit serious, and kind of healing. It was a good way to summarize some life lessons wrought by an inconceivable setback, and felt like the digital version of beginning to turn the page on some really bad luck.

Welp.

So here we are again, fresh off an injury, fresh on a return to the disabled list. (Who has a harder time staying healthy - me, or Rob Gronkowski? I know, Patriots fans. That stings a little, even with the Super Bowl title.) I'm not quite as far down the road as I was the last time I wrote a "lessons learned" post, but I've already started to figure some stuff out this trip to the orthopedist's chair. Maybe that's the advantage of being a running-induced fracture veteran... there has to be at least one, right?

So - with tongue firmly in cheek, here are four things I've learned in since sustaining my tibial stress fracture. (Fancy name for it, right?)

 

1. I may not remember algebra, but I definitely remember Lil Wayne

By my calculation, I've sat in a million doctors' offices over the last two weeks. This is only a slight exaggeration, but it's definitely been five. That's a lot of hours in waiting rooms. That's a lot of time with the same magazines about "family planning" and pamphlets about "joint health." It's also a lot of time with waiting room music, which means after appointment number one, I popped in my headphones. You know what I still know all the words to? Every song on Tha Carter III. That CD pretty much never left my car in high school (CDs, what a throwback) and it's comforting to know that Weezy remains solidly in my brain. And sorry, little old lady I scared in the therapy office in Rockville, I wasn't aware that I was singing along out loud.

 

2. Not running? That's cool. Your body will retain the same levels of hunger from when you were.

This is the woooooorst. It's probably no surprise to hear that lots of running translates to some elevated hunger levels, or as my friend Shaeda, who once saw me inhale a burger from Duke's Grocery after a 19-miler might call it, "terrifyingly fast eating."

I'd gotten better this time around about learning to fuel my body properly, so I wasn't eating giant outsized portions, but you still crave food a little differently when you're turning in large mileage. My body always wants more carbs, and definitely wants more red meat (hello, iron), in ways that I don't usually notice when I'm not following a training schedule. So to abruptly change, again, my activity level means my body has no idea what's going on. So it's just hungry. At all times. Always. Despite me not burning as many calories. It'll all balance out eventually, but in the meantime I'm trying my hardest to not eat my entire kitchen, with middling success.

 

3. The mental hit can be more severe than the injury

Here come some of the more serious lessons. (Thankfully) My fracture isn't as severe this time around. I have tons of mobility, I can still go to the gym, I'm not really experiencing much pain, I'm not on pain meds that make me think the sky is orange, I can take the boot off at night and act like a normal person in my own house... the list goes on and on.

But the mental hit is way, way harder. I'm really struggling. Every morning, when I see that boot leaning against my closet door, I remember it wasn't a bad dream. Every time I call or text my mom, I have to try my hardest to ignore the voice that tells me I've disappointed her yet again. Every time I read the words "Boston Marathon" - actually, let's be serious, I can't really stand to read stuff about running yet - I tear up. It feels like I backslid. It feels like I'm right back where I was a year ago. And in a world where I'm still kind of dealing with the reverberations of everything I lost last year, to lose one more thing is really kicking my ass. There's just no other way to put it. 

So I'm doing a good job of gently closing the door on people who, though meaning well, make pretty pointless comments. It's not funny to joke about how many times I've been injured. It's not helpful to accuse me of pushing myself too hard, or suggest I stop running. And I'm going to tell you that now. Because even if I look like I'm doing way better this time around, I'd say the mental battle is actually worse.

 

4. Advocating for myself is the best thing I can do

Everything happens for a reason. There is a lesson to be learned from this, probably more than one. And while I don't think I'll know the full implications until much further down the road, it's already been a really strong reminder of what I learned form injury #1: I have to advocate for myself, because it's not happening otherwise.

This time around, I had to push (and push) to get an MRI that diagnosed the fracture. I had to push to get answers. And today, when I tried to set up the tests and scans that are going to determine if there's a more sinister bone issue causing this series of unfortunate events, I was told that I couldn't be seen for the tests until this summer, because my age means it's not enough to push the tests into "emergency territory."

Nope. Not today. Not now. Not gonna fly. So it's another battle, sure - but the value in fighting these battles, I've learned, is immeasurable. I owe it to myself to speak up when something is wrong, listen to my body when something feels off, and push back when my concerns are invalidated.

It's not the prettiest lesson to learn, but I'm glad I did. And hey - here's to never having to write a post about lessons I learned from fracturing a leg bone ever again. 

Also - hey, world! I've put on my big girl pants and turned on comments on the blog. Feel free to let me know anything on your mind below. Or just let me know that you're my mom, and you're the only one reading this. Hi, mom.

being thankful, community ties, and forced healing

The one thing I've been grasping to this last week is that it's important - vital, necessary - to be thankful. 

It's so easy to get bogged down in the unhappiness. Too easy to see the bad news, see what's going wrong, and decide to traffic only in sadness. But I've been trying to force myself to find small moments and reasons to be thankful in the last week, because I find that helps me put a smile back on my own face, get up and get moving, and strengthen my resolve to defeat these bone issues, once and for all.

The thankful list includes :

  • That this morning, I got out of bed, headed to the gym, and spent the entire hour focused on upper body exercises. Yep, lifting weights. For a self-professed cardio fiend, I need to get over my aversion to weights - in fact, doing that has been on my secret mental to-do list for years. You know the one we all have : stop biting my nails stop spending so much money on clothing stop dating assholes definitely stop drunk texting that guy probably also stop buying lattes every morning... For me, start mixing in strength training was on that secret mental list. So now, I've sort of been slammed with reality : literally, aside from swimming, I can pretty much only focus on my upper body. So, weights it is. And it's important that I am thankful that I can do that. 

This morning, I sat on a machine at a gym, and had to swing my walking boot into place, not exactly a graceful task. It reminded me of trying to sit up after my broken hip, when I physically couldn't lift my body into a seated position after sleeping on my back. I needed to be pushed into place, fighting through makes-you-wanna-pass-out pain the entire time. So this time around, I still have mobility and strength and ability. Thankful list.

 

  • The thankful list most definitely includes the fact that, once again, I'm learning just how beautiful the people in my life are. My little brother coordinated with my roommate to send me pizza and wine (good wine) on Valentine's Day. My mom and dad texted me ceaselessly, despite me screening phone calls because I was hurting too much to want to talk to anyone, and despite me responding angrily to every text for a few days with "just leave me alone." Friends that send you flowers and draw Tom Brady on a card for you and make you laugh and ensure you're overserved for the first few, kind of brutal, bad days. Coworkers and peers who call and text and drop you lines of encouragement.

You know how they say it takes a village to raise a kid? I think the last year of my life is proof that village never truly goes away. My village is back and better than ever, injury 2.0 style, and I've again learned so much about the people who are willing to be there for me when I'm in a sad, painful place. Thankful list.

 

  • Lastly, I'm starting to come around to the idea that this second fracture happened for a reason. I mean, it happened for a physical reason, but until I get some answers from the medical scans, I don't know what that is. I'm talking about the universe reason, the higher reason, the "oh man, is she going to get religious on us now?" reason.

Nah. No religious stuff here, just another inkling that there's a bigger reason for this second tough break (sorry, I had to), even if I don't know it right now. I will say that I was starting to do some really fun, good work on nutrition and mindfulness and bringing overall wellness more into the fold of my life, only to get swept up in #training again, to throw caution to the wind, and try to do it all at once. I started to function on little sleep again, to ignore my own moods, to "push through" - almost getting myself dangerously worn down until, you know, I was forced to stop again. This time, though, I shut myself down, despite doctors telling me it was "just" a muscle issue (sound familiar?), so I didn't lose all the lessons I'd learned in the last year. But it's time to revisit those again, to take a holistic glance at the attitudes, routines and priorities I'm placing in my life. Am I rambling? Probably. Definitely. But on the thankful list : having the luxury to examine my priorities and do the work on myself that I'd pushed to the side in order to fit in a training cycle.

 

There's a thing about being forced to heal. It's kind of like being in a walking boot. The first few days, it's super clunky, and it really sucks and it's always in the way. And then, after a few days, you notice that even though using it forces you outside of a comfort zone, it actually reduces your pain overall. 

 

what's next + a weekend photo diary

I have a sticky note on my planner that says "write a post about what comes next." It's been staring at me since this weekend. For someone that loves writing so much, ironically the first skill to disappear in a period of upheaval is my ability to put my feelings on paper.

I've spent the last week feeling like I'm living in some sort of odd dream. This can't be happening again, can it? I've asked myself, only to fall apart when I realize that yes, in fact, it is.

 

Some things I'm begging with you, pleading with you not to say to me include : "You're hurt again?" "What did you do this time?" "Well, at least it's not as bad this time, right?"

I mean - yes. Correct. Physically, I'm not in as much pain. But what I'm really struggling with this time around are a whole host of mental battles, sadness and frustration and doubting myself in ways that I don't think I've ever had to battle before. I think that's probably worth a post that stands on its own at some point, maybe when I've had more space from the "day of" event. But last Friday, a half an hour before I was supposed to pick friends up to drive to Charlottesville for the weekend, I found myself curled in the fetal position on my bed, crying so hard that my headache persisted for the rest of the night.

This is really, really, really painful. In a different way. It sort of feels like I spent a year fighting, clawing my way back to myself, only to slide back down to rock bottom again. When the boot was strapped onto my foot on the same day that was the one year anniversary of Becky's passing, I wanted to scream until my throat was raw.

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But back to Friday. I had to pick myself up off my bad. I had to pick up my friends. I had to get out of the city. And it was the biggest blessing I could have imagined. 

I am really, truly struggling with "what's next." My identity is "runner." My relationship with my mom is as "runners," at least a part of it. And no one can give me answers as to why this keeps happening to me - why, in a healthy, strong 25-year-old body, bones keep fracturing. This means rounds of tests are coming up. And it means there's no timetable for my return. And that's driving my type-A, please seduce me with an itemized schedule, personality absolutely insane.

But Charlottesville. I had to go. And so two friends and I headed down Friday night, ahead of the rest of the group who would meet us there Saturday morning, and a weekend filled with laughter and soul-filling fun and pure ridiculousness began. It was exactly what I needed. And I didn't even know it.

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I woke up Saturday morning, a beautiful 60 degree day.  We were in an absolutely stunning home, surrounded by quiet, bucolic Charlottesville, and as I took a shower, I wanted nothing more than to be running the hills. But then I realized something so ridiculous I had to laugh out loud : over the last twelve months, I've run pain-free for exactly three of them.

Three. Three months in twelve without running through pain, or being in too much pain to run. That is an absurd statistic. It's a pretty grounding realization.

Over the weekend we drank too much wine - probably all of the wine in Charlottesville, maybe? And cooked some really good food. I overate, I laughed until my sides hurt. More than once I felt the twinge of my new injury but instead of beating myself up I just ...let it go.

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Tuesday was really hard. But I kept remembering that fact I realized over the weekend : three months. Three. Months. And so, surrounded by some of my favorite people in the world (who graciously let me take pictures of our weekend the entire weekend), I slowly began to realize it's probably time to give myself a fucking break. Time to chill out. Time to work on living a little differently. It's work that I began to do after my first injury, continued through the fall and then kind of ... lost myself, for a bit. Never really got to where I wanted to be. And here I am, right back at the beginning.

What actually happens next? I'm not sure, actually. I don't have a blueprint, and for now I'm kind of focusing on putting one foot in front of the other. But I'm typing this with hands that smell like chlorine - I've joined a gym where I can focus on swimming and on upper body work while in the boot. I think it'll also be important for me to continue that sort of low-impact cross-training once (if?) I'm cleared to return to running again. What's next number one, finding ways to remain physically active that are kind to my body.

What's next number two, getting my mental energy in order. Number three, cracking down on nutrition and diet and menu planning. For better or for worse, I've got more time on my hands now that I'm not training! So why not take the next 30 days to use that energy and that time to hit a new stride in pushing myself to be better with creative, wholesome menu planning?

What's next number four is this little space. Again, I have more time. I have some leftover energy. And I'd like to start writing here more frequently, and bring this focus of fitness and wellness into a closer union with my writing. I hope you'll bear with me - the posts about injury recovery aren't going anywhere, but may it be time to add in some workout posts? ("What to do in a boot" sounds like it would kill on Pinterest, right?). Some nutrition, some recipes - maybe it's time to bring what I've been quietly reading, obsessing over and discussion for the last few years more into my creative fold.

I still don't really know what happens next. I still really hope that my future holds running achievements. But I'm really sick of crying in my shower, and I'd really like to start making some lemonade. So I hope you'll keep reading. I hope you'll like the new energy and new content I want to bring here. And I hope that if you're being really hard on yourself, or if you've taken a few touch punches, or if your leg is fractured only a few months after healing from a broken hip - that you'll remember to give yourself a little break. 

it's okay to not be okay

What I've learned to hate most about grief is that there's no rhyme or reason. It's ugly. It's painful. And nothing but time takes it away.

Thursday, I was diagnosed with another stress fracture. After months and months of fighting to recover from my accident - first fighting just to sit up, then fighting to walk again, then fighting to do so without crutches, then fighting to run - I was told that I was in the clear. Running was back on the table. I PRed at a half marathon in November. The Boston Marathon, so painfully meaningful to me for so many reasons, was back on the table. But my body had other plans.

There is a crack nestled in my tibia, the bone running up the back of my right calf. It's not as severe as my other injury. And it's on the other leg. This is likely due to overcompensation, to my left leg still struggling to find its strength. But it could also be due to something more sinister, a deficiency, a depleted system, so I will have to undergo rounds of tests while I take the next 6-8 weeks to work on healing my body again. 

This time, though, I will also need to work on healing my mind. I woke up on Friday and was, for a moment, afraid that I wouldn't be able to get out of bed. It felt as if someone had placed a 50-pound weight on my chest. I was so sad that I physically hurt, the ache stretching deep down into my chest. I couldn't stop crying. When I looked in the mirror, all I saw was failure. It was as if the work I did since my accident on mindfulness, on admitting my limits, on accepting and loving myself anyway, had vanished.

Somehow, I got up. I showered. I went through the motions of my day. But I teared up on conference calls, and was so exhausted by normal conversation that I drank six cups of coffee by noon.

Yes, it's just a stress fracture. It's just a temporary delay of running. It's just a marathon.

Except it's so much more. Part of my identity is being a runner. It's my saving grace. It's the first athletic thing I've ever truly loved. It's who I am. And it's been taken from me again, the act of lacing up my sneakers wholly out of my control.

The physical is tough. The mental is harder. There is a voice inside of me telling me that I am a disappointment. It's hard for me to wonder how my mother could look at her daughter, who has now failed at Boston twice and, as someone that's run Boston twice, not be ashamed. It's harder to realize that I will have to watch people who didn't experience my family's painful struggles after Boston 2013, didn't experience my own personal, painful 2016, and didn't fight for this as hard as I have, run the marathon while I am once again sidelined.

I promised myself after losing Becky, and breaking my hip, that I would be more vocal about not being okay. If I am proud of anything this time around, it's that once I began to sense that something was wrong in my own body, I shut myself down and I pushed doctors until they agreed to MRI me. (Yes - even with a history of fractures, I had to push for an MRI.) But I am not okay. I wake up in the mornings and don't want to get out of bed. I'm living with a constant undercurrent of a voice inside my head telling me that I am a failure.

The first anniversary of losing Becky is Tuesday. I will be put in a walking boot on Tuesday. I am not okay.

I think the mental battle will be harder this time around. The physical should be easier - this time, I didn't run on the stress fracture for ten miles until it snapped. But the mental part of the injury is daunting. I'm not okay. And I'm afraid.

I really hope that someday I will cross that finish line. I really hope that I'll be able to wrap my arms around my family and tell them that I did it. I did it for me, I did it for them. I did it. But I don't know if I will. I don't know what is next. I don't know how I'm going to continue getting up in the morning, and pushing myself through my day.

I know that I will continue to move forward. It's a bad day, not a bad life, I keep telling myself. I'm not okay. But I will be. 

some news

This is a post I never wanted to write. The tough part about an injury like mine is that you don't know what the future holds. And though it seemed as if I was healthy again, apparently that was not the case. I've suffered another fracture and I'm ruled out of running for the foreseeable future. Which means, of course, that I will miss the marathon again.

On the surface it may not be evident why missing this is that big of a deal. And yeah, it's great that it was caught early this time. I wish I could summon some positivity. But I can't. I am embarrassed. I am discouraged. I can't believe I have to fail again. I can't believe I have to watch other people carry my family across the finish line. I can't believe I have once again lost the chance to share a special accomplishment with my mom. I can't believe this is happening again. I can't believe I'm in pain. Again.

So, hopefully someday soon, I will have some better words. Right now, I don't. I'm just heartbroken.

so you want to be a distance runner

... you crazy person!

Turning into a distance runner (and the kind of person that eat, sleeps, breathes and annoys other people by discussing running) was never something I would have predicted for myself. Somehow, a casual 5K with my mom turned into trigger point injections in my calf as I ask the doctor for the millionth time... "So how long until I can run again?"

I'm a crazy person. You're a crazy person for wanting to do it. We're all a little crazy. The best people are!

I'm in no way a running expert, which I actually love. I spend a lot of time weekly pouring through blogs, magazines, articles and podcasts. I nerd out on learning more about the sport, the people that share my devotion to it and how to push myself farther and (some days) faster. But don't take what I say as gospel, or as tried and true, proven facts. HOWEVER, I have been asked :

  • why running?
  • how do you do it?
  • what motivates you?
  • what should I do if I want to run for more than three miles?

So, with disclaimer fully intact, here's some things I've learned over the last few years :

1. Find Your Why

This is probably the most important tip I can give you - you gotta find your why. At first, my "why" was that I was pissed off about the 2013 Boston Marathon. I figured, what better way to show terrorism that I wasn't afraid than to knock the dust off my sneakers and go for my first-ever run? Anger will only carry you so far, it turns out - I'd say approximately 3.14 miles. Then, I had to find another why.

For me, running is about proving to myself both that I am strong and that there is a purpose larger than myself. I've checked off distances and times I've never thought possible and stared at myself in the mirror afterward, sweaty, proud and disbelieving. I was never proud of my body before I started running.

But if you want to be a dedicated distance runner that truly finds love and sanctuary in the sport, I also think it needs to become bigger than yourself, and bigger than crossing a finish line at a race. I've found volunteering opportunities through running. I've made amazing friends through running. And I've started to espouse the benefits of finding your athletic "thing" - which doesn't have to be running! - to anyone who will listen. If you let it, running will bring you a community and a chance to give back and a love that you didn't even know was missing in your life. And that is a really powerful reason to keep lacing up your sneakers.

2. Gear Up Properly

You are about to put your feet through some shit, people. Get yourself to a really good running store (ask for recommendations), make sure that they put you through a proper test and buy the shoes they recommend. If you start running in the shoes and they're uncomfortable, go back. Go back until you find the perfect fit. You're Cinderella, but way more badass.

Find good socks. Replace them often (just trust me on this). Find the types of sweat-wicking gear that works for you - I swear by drawstring leggings. Gonna enter a really rigorous training cycle? Shell out the money for heat gear and rain gear, and thank me later. Figure out how you're going to carry water and energy sources with you on your runs.

And, sorry boys, but ladies - let's talk boobs. Get yourself a good sports bra. You can get fitted for sports bras (I know, mindblowing) - do it. Whatever you're using in yoga won't cut it. In fact, you should have different types of sports bras for different types of activities. Make sure your bras are staying fresh - they can wear out, too - and make sure they're supportive for all of those miles. Think about how much things are bouncing... and moving... as you run for two or more hours. Pay the money for the really, really, really good bra. It is so worth it.

One last thing - have no shame when it comes to what works for you. The sports bras could be ugly - the shoes could be, too. Whatever! The best advice I got was to stock up on Vaseline and use it everywhere that could blister. So yeah, it's not the cutest thing in the world, but if my mileage is going over 10, you better believe my feet are covered in Vaseline in my socks. And the only time in my life I've wished for a smaller chest is while I'm running - you can laugh at rubbing Vaseline inside your sports bra all you want, but when it saves you from two chafing lines that look like you got implants and hurt like hell, you'll buy Costco-sized tubs, too.

3. Love Your Own Ability

Ugh, okay, this one is tough. You're probably never going to be an Olympic runner - and if you are, you really don't need to read this blog, I'm pretty confident #yougotthis. But with the rise of social media and online blogs (all of which are GREAT!), it can sometimes be really, really hard not to compare yourself to other runners. 

Their times are so much better than mine. They're always going to be faster than me. They didn't get injured. Wait, do people seriously look that good in race photos and why do I always look like I'm about to stroke out?

When I start to spiral like that, I try to remind myself : who cares? Seriously, who cares. I'm never going to win an Olympic medal. But guess who I'm in competition with? Myself. That's it. None of my friends that are faster than me particularly care that I'm slower. They're just excited to see me out there. And bitch about conditions over drinks after. 

4. Find Your Tribe

Speaking of friends - running friends are the best, ya'll! I can't count the amazing number of people that have come into my life since I started lacing up my sneakers. I'm blessed to now have a network of badass, fit, smart women (and a few men, too) that I can call for training partners, race buddies, or just a weeknight of meeting up to discuss... running. Told you everyone was a little crazy.

Find that network, and talk their ear off. They'll want to hear about your shin splints way more than your non-running friend that's listened to you complain for a million times. They usually have great suggestions for all of the tricky bits of the sport that you need to learn on the fly : foam rolling, stretching, cross-training and staying mentally in the game. And sometimes you'll just want to spend all afternoon gChatting each other links to really cute and ridiculously expensive running gear. It's a good thing.

5. Listen To Your Body

Whew, is this one important. Listen. To. Your. Body.

We've covered my injury and recovery ad nauseam here (and I'll probably continue to do so), so I don't need to rehash the whole story. But it is very very important to note that had I listened to my body, instead of the person that cleared me to run, the situation never would have become quite as dire. You know your body, your pain and your limits better than anyone. Don't be afraid to push yourself, sure, but if your gut instinct is to ease up, ease up. Don't run if you have a cold, don't run if your ankle hurts every time you put weight on it. And don't run if you're so sad you can't stop crying, because you'll have to stop and cry on the trail and that will just get embarrassing. Maybe (definitely) speaking from experience.

I'm still working on listening to my body and trusting myself, so here's what I say when I'm feeling guilty about skipping speed work because I have a fever :

It's pretty badass that my body can do this to begin with. Sometimes it deserves a day off. The world will not end.

 

 

There's so much more to know about running - but seriously, half the fun of getting into this sport is discovering all of that yourself. As always, feel free to reach out with questions / comments / recipes / race recommendations. And seriously - get a good sports bra.

physical therapy and forcing yourself to be humbled

Lately, I’ve been playing with meditation – waking up earlier than normal to slowly sit for a period of time, focusing on my breathing and allowing my mind to gradually wake up. Since my normal alarm is at 5:30, this meant pushing to 5 – so the waking up process should definitely be defined as gradual.

I’ve also been trying my hand at yoga. Never one to enjoy a class on the yoga mat, I’ve tried probably ten different styles in my life, unable to get one to stick. But I agreed to peer into East Side Yoga with a friend, and left the first class feeling an unmistakable pull to go back. So I did. Three times in one week.

Both experiences are the opposite of the type of person I believed myself to be : proudly type A, the owner of a written to-do list every day (I make one over my cup of coffee, even on weekends), constantly scheduling myself to the hilt.

But I write this on my fourth plane in two days, having completely lost my voice, tired to the bone – and wishing for nothing more than early to bed, and a simple, slow start to tomorrow morning. I write this as someone who’s seen the power of a little humbling.

It sometimes seems like 2016 was an entire year based on humbling me. And just as I felt like I was starting to get my confidence back in 2017, I found myself face down on a physical therapist’s table, getting needles stuck into my hip – only a few months after proudly declaring for the whole world to read that I had graduated from physical therapy.

Yeah, about that. Talk about humbling.

I think what surprised me most about my orthopedist ordering me back into PT was how easily I was able to take it in stride. It didn’t feel like a setback, an invalidation of my hard work. It felt like another deep breath, another silent pep talk, and another small mountain to climb.

Recently, someone asked me how I’d traveled from point A to point B, how I’d simply lived my life, when my struggle with my injury was at its zenith. And before I really even thought about it, I replied, “I pretty much just spent April to September always tired and always in some form of pain.”

Later, I sat in silence, thinking about that. I’d never really put it in those terms before, and it immediately smacked some perspective into me. Is my right thigh aching more than normal? Did my hip flexors roar in protest this morning when I slowly did my now-daily routine of stretches? But did I continue the rest of the day without getting into and out of a seat being a physical challenge of catastrophic proportions?

Now that the immediacy of physical recovery has slowed, I’ve noticed a sort of mental recovery beginning to percolate. After dodging the fastballs of the last year – on days I’m feeling particularly good, I’d say after catching those fastballs bare-handed and shaking off the pain to throw them back - I want to be a calmer person. I feel myself closing my eyes and taking deep, slow breaths when my tightly wound brain begins to spiral. When someone is callous, rude, or just plain hurtful, I’m trying to do a better job of acknowledging it, allowing myself to be upset – and then going right back to what I was doing.

When things go wrong, when I find myself once again gripping the sides of a physical therapist’s table in pain – it’s just another step, I like to remind myself. The final destination will be so worth it. The journey has already been so valuable.

I’m finding I want to push myself to be humbled. Forgiving people that hurt me? Not allowing one instance of bad luck to ruin my day? Meditation? Yoga? I suck at all of those. Especially yoga – really, ridiculously bad. But it’s also kind of funny just how terrible I am, just how inflexible my leg muscles are. And I still walk out feeling lighter, standing taller - knowing my posture has improved just from an hour of practice is incredible – and with my mind clearer than it was all day.

Humbling myself is translating into letting the shit of the universe go. Some days, I’m pretty bad at that, too. But I’m finding that, more and more, it’s working.

 

setbacks and slowing down

On New Year's Eve, I went for a ten mile run. It was the kind of run that makes me remember why I love this sport so much : the weather was clear and crisp, and I felt so strong that the miles seemed to fly by. Before I know it, I was heading up the snowy slope of my parents' driveway, sweaty and happy.

Later that night, my calf felt tight, like a giant knot was percolating under the surface. I made a mental note to give it some extra foam rolling love, and didn't worry too much. But a few days later it was still there, so tender now that the morning after six-mile run, I stepped out of bed to feel a jolt of pain rush up my leg. And I panicked.

The fear of re-injury is visceral at this point : at least once a week, I have a nightmare that ends with me crumpled on the side of a trail, unable to pull myself into a standing position. I usually wake up, panicked, and need to lull myself back to sleep while I rub my left hip, as if to reassure myself that it's whole.

It's no secret that after the last year of my life I believe in the power of the universe and I believe in the power of positivity. But over the last week, as I immediately shut down my running and counted the days until I could get in to see my doctor, I momentarily lost track of both of those new tenants of my life.

You see, it wasn't the only setback I'd faced as it related to my journey to the finish. I was feeling uninspired, unwelcome and extremely self-critical. The familiar blues I feel upon returning to D.C. had settled squarely in my chest, I was waking up each morning missing home with a deep, powerful ache - and I was beginning to look in the mirror critically. Who did I think I was to attempt a do-over? Why can't I be as fast as other people? The old thoughts came back : should I be working out more? Three times a day? Is this enough to truly do my best at that race?

It was the same slow circle I'd found myself in last year : grief, anger, injury, resignation. By the time I got into the doctor's office, I was on the verge of tears just sharing the news that, once again, running was causing me pain.

But then the universe smacked some sense into me. 

In 2015, right before I ran the Philly Marathon with my mom, I wrote a piece about why I'd started running, and submitted it to Women's Running. I never heard back - common in the freelance world - and promptly forgot about it.

Wednesday morning, I was down. I texted multiple people - I was out. I'm not meant to be a runner, I'm not meant to do this, and it's definitely not meant to be a special personal accomplishment. What was the point?

And then later that day, an acquaintance contacted me. Hey, they said. Is this your piece from November 2015 in Women's Running? So cool! 

They'd never told me it ran, and on the day when I decided to give up on myself, someone found a piece that detailed exactly why I run. 

I laughed. Then I wanted to cry. In that moment, I remembered why this is so important. I realized I was going against everything I've learned to believe this year : Not to be so critical of your body, because everything it does is pretty remarkable. Not to let other people dictate your own happiness and success. Not to let minor setbacks become catastrophic mountains. And to stay positive, and believe in the power of the universe, above all.

Today, my doctor told me that my leg is just rebelling a bit after not being used in this way for so long. It's a mild strain that should resolve pretty quickly - as long as I give it some rest and TLC. And I wanted to laugh again. Message received, universe and guardian angel - time to believe in myself again, and shake off the negativity. 

Nothing about life is supposed to be a cakewalk, so why should I expect my marathon journey to be perfect? If it continues to be gloriously, fantastically complicated, I have to learn to let that be okay. Setbacks are okay. Slowing down is okay. Not continuing to believe in yourself and trust your journey? Not okay.

The next few months will see me mark two particularly painful anniversaries, but hopefully, at the end of it, I will finally carry myself and my favorite angel across the finish line. And I know it's possible that I may not get there - but losing the strength I've developed over the last year? Not an option. So, this week was a tough week. But I'm not counting myself out just yet.

broken hip to Boston - with a side of fear

By far the most frequent thing I hear from non-runners is a slightly incredulous, sometimes half-mocking question.

What do you THINK about while you’re running for so long?

I get it. The thought of doing anything longer than hour, except for reading, or sleeping, is daunting to me – it’s why I almost never go to the movies. My mind goes a million miles a minute sometimes, and I get antsy, fast. Why, then, have I become so drawn to distance running, where if your music source runs out of power, it’s just you and your brain for hours on end?

I think about everything. And nothing. It’s sort of like falling asleep, I once tried to explain to someone : for the first few miles, I think about everything : what groceries do I need this week? What outfit should I wear to an upcoming event? What project did I forget about? (More than once, I’ve said “oh, SHIT” out loud, pulled off the trail, and opened Evernote to send myself a quick reminder to answer an email, or write a post, that had totally slipped my mind.)

And then – nothing. Silence. Minutes and miles will fly by, and before I know it, I’ll have been out there for two hours, in what I can only call sort of a trance. If it sounds crazy to you, that’s okay. It sounded crazy to me once, too. But running has become sort of a form of meditation for me. It calms my brain. It forces me to get in touch with my body – how am I feeling? What hurts? – and it forces me to push aside the bullshit.

*

Lately it’s been a little less tranquil. I struggled with whether or not to make it public that I’m signed up to run the 2017 Boston Marathon. On one hand, I could really use the support. On the other, I’m still working toward this goal with last year’s ghosts nipping at my heels.

To be frank, I’m terrified.

I’m scared because I’m still embarrassed about what happened last year. I don’t regret it, and I’m proud of how far I’ve come, but there are days when a mean voice inside of me pipes up. It’s been louder than usual lately. You failed. It tells me. Who are you to think you should ever attempt this again?

I’m sincerely doubting my own abilities. I never used to think twice about lacing up my sneakers for going for a run. Now, every time I grab my gear, I start to wonder if I’m foolish for even attempting it. I try to buoy myself, to use affirmations and visualizations and mental tricks to help, but I can’t shake that mean voice. Why are you even trying? It asks me. What is it going to look like if you fail again?

I guess that’s my real, deep fear – that I’ll strike out again on take two. I hear about others heading to Boston, and the voice strikes again. Enjoy your do-over. It tells me. Some people don’t need two tries to crush this marathon. You’re just pathetic.

It’s hard to pump yourself up and be excited for what’s next when you’re still beating yourself up for a past failure.

*

I’ve done a pretty good job of maintaining a positive attitude since my injury. Not perfect, but pretty good.  I firmly believe that recovery is worse if you are determined to live in the negative. I firmly believe that my injury and my heartbreak happened for a reason. I firmly believe I am better for it.

BUT – and this is a big “but” – beginning to train again has dredged up a lot of unwelcome emotion. I don’t even want to think about what it would feel like to DNF twice, but that small, mean voice is there all the time. It’s worse as I think about people who will cruise to the finish line and not have to spend the entire training cycle, the entire 26.2 miles on Patriot’s Day, trying to fight off the ghosts and the memories of the most painful stretch of their lives.

And then there’s the potential for re-injury. “Are you INSANE?” more than one person has asked upon hearing my goal to go from broken hip to Boston in a year. Possibly. Probably? I feel as if I don’t know anymore.

But I also think nobody, myself included, says enough – I’m afraid. I’m sad. I’m struggling to believe in myself. Maybe if we share that, it’ll normalize those conflicts.

*

Early mornings have always been my favorite time to run. The dark dawn is quiet and peaceful. Somehow, it’s easier to get into a rhythm in the mornings – before I know it, I’m rounding the corner to home, ready to get my day started. I feel more productive. I feel energized. And usually, I feel pretty happy.

All of that is good news when you’re training for a marathon, because the cycle is so grueling, and so demanding, that you’ve got a lot of early mornings on your plate. When it’s Boston, it’s a lot of early, cold mornings. If you’re lucky, there isn’t ice on the ground. You’re usually not lucky.

I read a wonderful quote recently from Yousef Karsh : “Character, like a photograph, develops in darkness.” It’s time for me to keep seeing how my character develops in this darkness – in the dark, quiet morning runs, and in pushing through the dark memories and self-doubt.

Broken hip to Boston – it’s either entirely insane, or it’s going to make a great t-shirt someday.

 

life lately

It has been a whirlwind kaleidoscope of happy, glittering, brightly colored events full of love to end 2016. 

It's appropriate that this year is ending with a mad dash to the finish, full of love. It's ending like the end of a race - you see it in sight and you're desperate to reach it, so you pick up the pace. But at the same time, the magnitude of what you've just accomplished is so very present, a little overwhelming, and maybe just a little worthy of tears.

Forgive the photo-heavy post, but I'm deeply thankful and radiantly happy to be wrapping this year with weddings, baptisms, family time, love and laughter galore.

I know that 2017 won't be perfect, but I have high hopes for it. This year was transformative - it showed me who I am when the world (when the world and when my world) gets ugly. I mourned. I cried. I loved. I laughed. I learned so much.

I learned that my life is so very full. I have wonderful family and friends. I have a great job that I look forward to every single day. I have fulfilling hobbies that push me and further my passions, and keep me so busy that I live and die by my planner. I work my butt off and I also am learning, just a little bit, that it's okay to take a nap instead, too.

Life lately has been full. May 2017 be the same.

'tis the season

This is my favorite time of year. I'm the first to admit that I've bought into the Christmas season wholly : hook, line and commercialism. It's hard to believe that in just a few days, I'll be packing up to return to Boston for the holidays. The end of 2016 is like completing a long, difficult hike. We're all at the top, gasping for breath, and hoping like hell that the next leg of the journey isn't another steep uphill climb.

This year. Man, this year. It was a dumpster fire for me and for so many people I know. At many points, I was convinced that 2016 was determined to keep me down. "This year is ruining my life," I told more than one person. There was even a point where a small part of me wondered if there was anything to be gained by seeing the year through. Why bother getting out of bed when the real world kept kicking the shit out of me?

 

 

I expected to be limping out of 2016 - no broken hip pun intended. And in some ways, these holidays are just as difficult as I imagined. I had to duck away at a Christmas party to compose myself recently when I remembered, suddenly, the giant hole that was missing from the celebrations and from my life. We are still very much struggling through the year of "firsts" that come along with losing someone special, and there are times when the happy glint of Christmas tree lights make me want to cry until my sides ache.

But despite 2016's best efforts to keep me down, I'm exiting this year having learned the importance of remembering two main things : to move. And to be grateful.

 

to move

 

I firmly believe that fitness is of utmost importance. It teaches you what you are capable of, showing you in clear physical measure your emotional and physical strength. There are layers inside all of us that come out on a long, contemplative run, or through grinding in a particularly difficult cycling class. It teaches you to set goals, to chase accomplishments, and, in my case, to make peace with my body. For a long time, I would stand in front of a mirror and flinch when I met my own eyes, only cataloguing my flaws. Now I'm so busy being excited by the fact that I'm standing at all, it's hard not to simply appreciate the strength it took to get here.

So - physically moving is important. But so is moving emotionally.

We should all resolve to move in 2017. The best way to honor yourself and your community is to do so. Move in support of the causes that move you. Move to make the creative dream lurking in the smallest corners of your brain a reality. Unhappy somewhere? Move. 

Life is so fragile. I learned this twice in 2016, in sharp, gut-wrenching detail. But I moved forward. I pushed myself through the darkness. And now, looking back on the moments when I was teetering on the edge of a dark collapse, I realize that moving was my only way out.

Moving in 2017 for you doesn't have to look like what I hope moving in 2017 will look like for me. But believe that you are capable of it - because if 2016 has taught us anything, it's that the world is too uncertain to stay rooted in one steadfast moment.

 

to be grateful

 

I'm leaving this year grateful for many things that barely registered on my radar last December. My health, my health insurance, the health of my loved ones. The gift of time with those I love. My body now functioning in ways it didn't for much of 2016. That my brain never stopped functioning the way it should.

That I have a chance to kick 2017's ass the way 2016 kicked mine.

This year, my parents and brother are all getting experiences for Christmas, not physical items. (Sorry, Christopher. Better luck next year.) I learned this year that there is no time to hesitate in being with the ones you love. Every text message, every phone call, every lazy Sunday with people who care about me - those are the experiences that you can't buy back once they're gone.

There is gratitude to be found in small things, too. I am grateful that I can run again. (I'm grateful that both my mom and I won the Cherry Blossom 10 miler lottery!) I'm grateful that I now forget to lead with my right leg when I'm walking - and even more grateful that it no longer matters which leg I favor. 

It's a little embarrassing to think about how many things I took for granted before this year. I want to do everything now. I also want nothing more than to be with my family. When I walk into a room with them, it is so filled with love that sometimes it knocks the breath out of me, a little. I hope that for you, too - from someone, something, some place.

The world would be a better place if we all tried to reframe with a little more gratitude. No one will ever be a perfect person, except probably my grandmother. But I've found that every night, sitting for a minute and thinking about what I'm truly thankful for that day, has brought me happiness that, for a few dark months, I thought had forever left my life. Things like a long run in below freezing temperatures. A bottle of wine in Napa, split with my mother. Baby giggles and light kisses from the tiniest members of my family. Friends that will provoke an ugly cry by buying your groceries for you when getting to the store is an impossible physical task. A really fucking good book.

 

 

2016 was a doozy - we can all agree on that. But I have never felt a holiday season where I've been this appreciative of all that surrounds me, nor this determined to tackle the opportunities and challenges that lay ahead. 

So, thanks, 2016. We're just about done with you now, but if what comes out of this year is a new desire to move and to live with gratitude - well then you weren't exactly the complete wasteland I thought you to be.

 

 

run fast eat slow (or : run medium tempo, stop eating crap)

I've written before about my struggles with working out and food (the hunger is real), and never is it more of a challenge than when I'm maintaining a pretty dedicated running routine. There's all kinds of research surrounding why you're just so damn hungry after a long or tough (or both) run, but mainly, it's that after all that work, your body just demands calories now. And your mind - mine, anyway - often translates that to "please eat whatever is closest and fastest."

One of my biggest challenges during training cycles is trying to curtail my snacking. But since I'm a morning workout person, and since I'm a hard workout person, I've struggled with being hungry all day. Sometimes I felt like a bottomless pit - sure, I just had four different granola bars, and I could definitely still eat my coworker's leftover pizza. 

That perpetuates a negative cycle : eat too much, feel heavy, feel unconfident on my runs because I felt heavy, return to square one with the complicated relationship with food and eating I've had since high school. I had to work really hard in college to teach myself that it's okay to eat three meals a day, it's okay to have "bad" foods and it's definitely okay to need to eat more than you think is "normal for a girl." I still have issues with comments running through my head every time I eat ice cream or have a buttery slice of pie : do you really think you deserve this? This is going to make all of your pants too tight. Better run tomorrow.

You know, the usual. So while a good workout routine should, in theory, help you maintain a healthy dose of self confidence, my struggle to stay full, eat healthy, and not feel guilty for doing both always seemed to bring me down. 

Now that I'm beginning to mix my running workouts up again - tempo runs, stride-outs and long runs all in the shuffle - and getting much better about cross-training (I promise, Mom! I really am this time!), I started to feel that hunger and its companion, the guilt, coming back along with it. But I've come so far in my recovery that I refused to feel anything except pride about what my body is able to accomplish. After getting into the swing of meal planning with my roommate, I decided to bite the bullet and purchase a copy of Run Fast, Eat Slow by Elyse Kopecky and Shalane Flanagan. (I got my copy at Summit to Soul on Barracks Row for my DC readers. You absolutely have to visit!)

 

I was super skeptical. I've bought cookbooks before, only to watch them pile up and catch dust. And I also wasn't sure that cooking their meals would "fix" my issues - bison meatballs and pasta sound good, but also sounds like a way for me to pace around feeling guilty about eating pasta. But many of my fit friends recommended it with ringing endorsements, and since there's no one I trust more than a badass lady who can kick my butt on a long run, I went for it.

You can read more about the book on its website, but here's a quick summary :

"FROM WORLD-CLASS MARATHONER AND 4-TIME OLYMPIAN Shalane Flanagan and chef Elyse Kopecky comes a whole foods, flavor-forward cookbook that proves food can be indulgent and nourishing at the same time. Finally here’s a cookbook for runners that shows fat is essential for flavor and performance and that counting calories, obsessing over protein, and restrictive dieting does more harm than good."

(Shalane Flanagan is a very worthy crush to have, by the way.)

So, I've started cooking from the book, and let me assure you - it makes all the difference. The first shopping trip, to get special flours, oils and supplies, was a little painful. But what I've noticed as I've eaten meals entirely from the cookbook's lineup has been completely worth it. If I eat a protein-heavy breakfast, with a dose of carbs if I've run that morning, I often find myself not needing lunch until 1 or 2 p.m.

As someone that used to heat up instant oatmeal and start thinking about lunch at 10 a.m., that is HUGE.

The rest of the meals are fresh, flavorful and don't taste at all like I'm sacrificing my love for cooking to try to keep my appetite in check. But the best part of all is that for every recipe, the authors explain why it's important and good for you to eat the ingredients in the dish. That, in turn, helps me to feel good about what I'm putting into my body, and relax a bit about calculating my calories in - calories out. 

When things were at their worst, I'd restrict my meals heavily - eating really small portions of very low calorie foods in order to feel okay about eating at all. So now, it's really hard for me to give myself permission to eat full meals. Instead i do bites or snacks here and there because it’s easier for me mentally, but that’s actually worse for me physically!

Finding a cookbook that teaches me about the importance of the food I'm eating while I'm eating it makes a huge difference.

 

Some caveats : I'm not a nutritionist, or a doctor, or even really that knowledgable about diet and nutrition. I've admittedly had a tough relationship with food for most of my adult life. And a lot of that I handled through seeking help other than through a cookbook. And a lot of it I'm still working on.

But what I have gained in the last year is a healthy sense of appreciation for my own body. To go from writhing in pain on a hospital bed to completing a sub-2 hour half marathon in seven months is a journey I'm really fucking proud of. It's a journey I intend to expand upon, and I know that means I need to fuel my body properly, and not be afraid of food.

So screw what a girl "should eat" and screw calorie counting. I'm learning to focus on eating really good foods, and chill about the other stuff. And while I still can't buy ice cream for my house because I will eat an entire pint in one sitting (what's self control?), I'm finding that there is a lot of power in eating really good, really real food.

And yeah, a word of warning, I may give you a muffin only for you to find out there's a zucchini and a carrot grated into the batter. You're welcome.

thankful

At some point during recovery, I was assured that I would "100 percent" be off crutches and walking without a limp by the holidays. This was more daunting than it sounds: for months, every time I tried to drop my crutches and walk from point A to point B, I leaned so heavily on my right leg that it was actually impossible for me to walk standing straight up. Instead, I craned so far to the side that I was almost parallel to the ground.

So, the holidays became my metric. By the holidays, I would be able to walk normally again, they reassured me. Something I'd once taken for granted became a tease, a prize, a glimmering hope just slightly out of reach. I thought by the holidays, not only would I be walking, I'd be normal. For most of 2016, I walked through life in a haze. I smiled, said the right things, made my doctors' appointments, cycled through physical therapy, but inside, I felt as if I was continually screaming. It was strange for me when people treated me as if nothing was strange - they couldn't see the giant hole in my chest? The pain thrilling every nerve ending, every memory, every moment?

I'd be back to normal by the holidays, the doctors told me, and I took it as gospel. I'd be myself again, I thought. It would be almost a blank slate, as if 2016 hadn't done such a number on me that I'd had to remind myself every morning for months that getting out of bed was necessary.

As has happened many times this year, I now know I was naive. I will never, ever be the same again. But I'm thankful for that.

Thursday was a day to spend surrounded by loved ones (and food), reflecting about what you are thankful for. It felt weightier this year, more meaningful. I volleyed from a family meal to one of my best friend's garages, surrounded by people that make me laugh more than anyone else in the world, drinking beer late into the night. And I was so thankful.

I am thankful for many things this year : I am thankful that my joint healed. I am thankful for medical insurance. I am thankful for my parents, who literally showered me, clothed me, combed my hair, helped me to the bathroom, helped me to eat, helped me to sit up, helped me to move and helped me learn how to live again. I am thankful for friends. I am thankful for grief counseling. I am thankful for trips and sunsets and good wine and eating too much food. I am thankful that I am running again.

But I'm thankful for bigger things, too. I'm thankful that I will forever be a different person. I cry more easily now - quick to tear up, as if there's an untapped reserve. I laugh more. I advocate for myself more. I'm learning to tell people that I need time alone, when I'm having a bad day, when I just need a break. I've learned to take absolutely nothing for granted : not your health, not your body and definitely not the people that you love. I've learned to tell people how important they are to me, to spend as much time as I can with the people who make my heart feel as if it may swell out of my chest.

And I've learned how strong I am. Physically, yes - I'm thankful that I've returned to running, to strength training, to all activity. But also mentally. I've learned that my heart can break, that I can lose someone special and precious to me, and then, immediately after, can be confined to a bed after a devastating accident - and I can survive.

2016 will always be with me. It is a year that has forever altered my life, that will send shockwaves through 2017 and 2018 and years beyond. It was a terrible, awful, wrenchingly painful year. Yet it's taught me much. Every minute, every laugh, every smile with friends, I don't take for granted. My life is filled with greater happiness and love than I ever realized. That, I think, is reason enough to be thankful.