Embrace the Space: My Reset Year

When we stop, does it meant we’ve quit? Or can we all agree that a break is necessary in restoring our soul? To be better than we were before, we must embrace the space.

It has been almost a year since I’ve written here, leaving you with my lengthy recap of Ironman Lake Placid 2016 - a race I enjoyed so very much. I was riding this incredible high, floating on adrenalin and stoked for what I could add to the race calendar next.

But soon I found comfort in the not knowing. I began a new job literally hours after I crossed the finish line of Placid, and I jumped in head first to give it my all and explore this new adventure. And I felt great…so fit…checking the boxes of my life that I always wished to accomplish. But my high was soon captured when my physical abilities just couldn’t measure up to my mental strategies. I was aiming for everything at 110 percent and my body was screaming for a break.

It happens. We go, go, go and then BAM - it hits us. Like a ton of bricks we come to the realization that we don’t always know what is best for us, and we can get a better understanding when we open our eyes and ears to the patterns of our well-being. Suddenly, mine began to deteriorate. 

Here’s my story.

A week after Ironman Lake Placid 2016 (July), I was full of energy, more than ever ready to get my feet wet again for another race. I started toying with the idea of a 70.3 Ironman just a couple months later in October and signed up for a couple of half marathons. I was, or so I thought, on a roll. Then one day soon after, I found myself ending a run after just one mile when a sudden hip pain struck and ran down my entire right leg. I was scared, but I also was conditioned to run through pain, so I found a way to soldier on. The ache continued to flare up for days, which turned into weeks and then before I knew it - I was toeing up to the Rock n Roll Brooklyn half marathon with a crippling pain that was dangerous and made my friends hate me for not taking better care of myself. My only thought - get through this race and then you can heal what seems like your broken hip. Yeah, it felt that extreme.

After hobbling to the finish line and barely being able to walk the next day, I finally found myself at the orthopedic doctor. She told me it wasn’t my hip; she diagnosed me with tendonitis of the right glute. Or as I like to call it “tushie tendonitis” or a big fat “pain in the ass.” Jokes aside, this was no laughing matter. Racing was taken off the table for the rest of 2016 while I strengthened my “situation.”

At the same time - and I’ve mentioned this in my recaps before - I was dealing with strength deterioration in my right shoulder and arm - a case many doctors have yet to confirm the root of. We tried to lock down the culprit once more with an MRI on my neck to look for pinched nerves…but there was no sign of that. The right side of my body was literally taking me down and I felt very sad for the first time in a long time as I didn’t have the ability to live without pretty excruciating pain.

Then the worst came. After a series of sudden spasm-like muscle pulls in my skull (the scariest was one during a pool swim in August) I ceased all activity as my brain began to turn on me - with a sizzling-like effect as a constant at the back of my head, always reminding me it was about to pull again. Ever felt this? It’s a level of scary I cannot put into words. But the swimsuit and the bike were put away quickly and I haven’t looked back since November 2016. 

Those spasms expanded to full blown migraine headaches - the aching at an unimaginable level where my vision became blurry and my stance slightly staggered. I would get up from my desk at work and have to wait for the spinning to subside before I took off to walk to my next destination - a journey that felt like a boat on rocky seas. Though they surrounded my entire skull and behind my eyes, a lot of the headaches were felt across the right side of my head, which strangely is connected to my bad shoulder, which is connected to my weak arm, which is connected to my sore butt, which is connected to my once broken foot. The right side of my body was losing it’s balance and I was losing my way.

A neurologist diagnosed me with a) occticular neuralgia, 2) a vestibular issue, and 3) TMJ. As it turned out, my headaches were a result of pretty intense stress. Now, I didn’t feel stressed at work - no more than I ever have before - but apparently I was sleeping with a tight jaw and grinding my teeth. WHAT! So I’m doing this all to myself? Yes, we are our own worst enemies and we have control over our well-being. So I got the mouth guard to shield the situation, drilled down hard on my PT exercises, and most of all - I learned to rest. Ok, I was FORCED to rest.

So how does an always-on-the-run gal take a break? I had to dig deep and see that this wasn’t just hurting me, but it was upsetting those around me, including my family, friends and colleagues. Stress is such a powerful force and it can and will kill the best of us. So it a no brainer to seek out methods of clearing the mind and resting the body. Where did that lead me? To experiences I never took too much advantage of before, including yoga, meditation, massages, steam rooms, midday naps and self help books. Instead of long runs on weekends, I was on my couch with a newspaper and a breathing app. 

Early in 2017, I was still experiencing joint pain and the headache were still extremely prominent at times, sometimes lasting for up to 48 hours straight. It was soon clear that my hope of racing Ironman Santa Rosa 2017 in July (this weekend) was off the table. So was the sport of triathlon. So was any activity of that level. I committed to my health and my work, and tried to find comfort in new skin, surrounded by new challenges. I lived through my friends exciting rides and put my heart into being there for them as opposed to locking myself away in shame that my body was - what seemed like - turning on me. Life is full of obstacles and I’m someone who loves to tackle them. So I did.

When the summer months rolled around, I was feeling like myself again. A new group of friends came into my life which brought new experiences and opportunities for me to wrap my arms around. That led me to do a Ragnar Relay Ultra Run (204-miles between 6 of us) in the beginning of June in Pennsylvania (I should do a standalone recap on that). I also began to embrace hiking - a sport I absolutely cannot get enough of. With all of this, I was settling into my new groove, seeing my potential behind doors I never really opened before. Also, I was able to embrace aspects of my life I hadn't been before. For instance, in the last several months, I did more traveling than I ever have, as I was not tied down to a training plan. I spent time with family in Florida, explored beautiful countries and cities across America, and got to take full advantage of the awesome opportunities my career has provided me with.

I look back and I’m sad that I felt like a coward for not training, for not writing and for not being as in touch with the people I loved this past year. Life sometimes slips away from us and we lose a little of who we are as parts of our life fall out of place. But it’s those small moments that always bring us back - and the people on the sidelines that cheer for you even when you feel like an absolute pile of mush. What I know now: You don’t ever lose what you love if it’s kept in your heart. We all need to take a step back and learn to be ok with embracing the space; we need to understand that we can and will come back stronger when we do. 

And you better believe I’m coming back in my own big way. More news on my next mega adventure in the coming days…

Healthiest of wishes,