It’s Me Again…
Wow. After nearly a year away from my site, and in some ways my life, it’s good to be back.
2019 was a strange year for me and was filled with some serious challenges. In 2019 I faced health problems, burn-out, chronic stress, surgery, and injury. Every challenge I faced set me on overdrive – the year seemed to fly by, while simultaneously trapping me in the past.
Reflecting back, it’s not hard to see the warning signs my body gave me during this time, but that’s the problem with hindsight – it’s never there when you need it.
Coming out of The Coastal Challenge
Coming out of The Coastal Challenge in 2018, I was on a high. I had just completed the biggest race I had ever signed up for, and truly felt invincible. I was, in my opinion, untouchable; I mean if I could survive 230KM in the humid jungles of Costa Rica, I could take on anything right?
It was this mentality that drove me forward, and from what I can discern, where I went wrong.
Going back to the “real world” after training for and completing The Coastal Challenge made me feel a little lost. Four months of my life were dedicated to the race, and the purpose it gave me each day was addicting. Now the race was over, and I had nothing left to strive for. Suddenly, all my previous goals felt too small, I mean, what was a 50K race compared to what I had just completed? It left me in a tailspin, and so I did what I knew, I put my head down, gritted my teeth, and kept trudging forward. I left absolutely no time to breathe, to reflect, to recover.
I ran and ran and ran.
If I’m being truthful, I think I was scared of what I might find if I gave myself the space to be with myself after such an intense experience, and so to fill the space, I ran. I ran and ran and ran. I couldn’t get up in the morning, and still I would run. I had searing back pain, and still I would run. I had my entire face break out in dermatitis, and still I would run. I would lash out at loved ones, and still I would run. I would cry in my sleep, and still I would run. I would wake up in a pool of sweat, and still I would run. I would start mysteriously putting on weight, and still I would run. I ran literally, and metaphorically, from myself for a very long time.
The human body is both amazingly strong, and incredibly fragile.
The human body operates on a delicate line, and when out of balance, can cause a multitude of issues that if not caught early on, can lead to a pretty serious downfall. The fall is gradual – less of a free fall and more of a gentle downward spiral. During the fall, your body will attempt to warn you, but unless you are in tune with yourself, and willing to put your ego aside, the signals are lost in the noise of everyday life. This is the lesson that I had the (dis)pleasure of realizing for myself. The journey to finding the enlightenment behind this lesson was an incredibly hard and long process – it took me half 2018, and most of 2019, to move from denial to acknowledgement to acceptance.
My body decided it had enough.
In December, 2018, my body decided that if I wasn’t going to voluntarily stop running, it would make me. What developed was a painful, and persistent, mystery pain in my left foot – now if I wanted to run, it would cost me. It stopped me for a while. I reluctantly slowed my training, spent more time on the spin bike, and resented every moment of it. Instead of spending my free time running in the trails, I was now spending my free time with my three besties: my chiropractor, my physiotherapist, and my massage therapist. I can’t tell you how many needles have been poked in my butt. At this time, greater work demands, increased personal stress, and a self-identity crisis also came into the picture. The pressure I put on myself was unreal. I was wound so tightly that there were times where I felt I couldn’t breathe – the weight of the world was too heavy. There were times when I would go to sleep and not wake up for, at its worst, over 48 hours. I had finally reached my breaking point – my body wasn’t going to keep up with me anymore.
Hiding behind a “positive attitude”.
This was most of 2018, and nearly all of 2019. This is what was behind all of the posts, all of the smiles, and all of the races. Don’t get me wrong, I have a blessed and wonderful life, but at times it became very difficult to be grateful for what I had in front of me. When I wasn’t running, I was scrambling to find ways to fill up every moment of my day – staying still just wasn’t an option. I didn’t know it then, but some of my closest friends and family began to be concerned for me, and honestly, even if I did know on some level, I was definitely not ready to face up to it.
I have always been told that I am a “positive person”, and that label made it hard for me to be really authentic about what was going on for me. For the record, I am pretty positive. I put a real effort into looking for the bright side, giving people the benefit of the doubt, and for looking for a way forward, but being positive doesn’t mean that I am always happy. It took me a really long time to come to terms with that, and is still hard for me to admit. I don’t know about you, but it is incredibly difficult being human sometimes.
How I found my path.
My turning point came post-surgery in October. I was finally forced to slow down, and during that time, I started to look inward for my healing. I started making some difficult choices. I finally chose to take accountability for my life, for my wellness. I chose to let go of the stories that were keeping me in the past. I chose to let go of being right, so that I might be happy. I also chose to stop running for a while.
It’s been a little over four months now, and for the first time in a long time, I am feeling like myself again. I don’t believe that running “caused” my problems. It may not have helped, but the root of everything I experienced was tied to a lack of integrity towards myself. In order to get back on track, I have been making a conscious effort to listen to my body and then honouring what it needs. I have also been practicing mindfulness through yoga, breathing exercises, and changing my story around what happens. It’s not always easy, and there are definitely times when I fall back into old habits, but it’s a step in the right direction.
Now that I am stronger, in body and mind, I also have a new race goal.
My break from running gave me the space I needed to find my “why”. When I started running a little over five years ago, I instantly fell in love with it. I ran to feel strong, to be connected with nature, and to feel empowered. Over the years, my training began to feel more and more like a job. I felt like I “had” to run. The truth is, is that I “get” to run, and that is something I am not intending to take for granted again. It was from that state of mind that I made the decision to sign up for the Big Foot 73 Miler in August with the intention of raising money for the North Shore Women’s Centre. It’s a huge, scary, goal, and one that I am excited to take on.
It’s still early in the year, but for the first time in a long time, I feel that I am finally moving forward, not with my head down, but with one foot in the present and one pushing me into the future.
Please stay tuned for more on Big Foot, my fundraising goals, and all the steps along the way!
“Tap me out and tap me into you
Heal my brain and my body too
Balance my chemistry, hydrate these cells
‘Cause the body talks and meditation helps”
– Nahko and Medicine for the People