Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Candid Reflections of 2011 and Embracing Challenges and Fears in 2012

I have been hesitant to write another post because the world seems overwhelmed with blogs; everyone seems to have something to share, valuable or not. In the past months, I found myself questioning the purpose, direction, and focus of my own blog. I recently read a discussion on DailyMile that asked bloggers why they felt the need to share with the world their personal stories, successes and failures, photos, reviews, and beyond. As I read the responses, I thought about the various motives behind writing a blog. I must admit that some seem more valuable and inspiring than others but who am I to judge? Nonetheless, I promptly recalled the reasons why I began my blogging adventure. When I started my blog in 2010, I saw it as an opportunity to express myself, to capture some of my best and worst running (and overall life) experiences, and to share my lessons learned. I also viewed it as an opportunity to share my story and to be honest about my struggle with an eating disorder while attempting to live a more balanced and healthier life and to become a better runner. During the voyage, I simply hoped I might inspire someone along the way. Ultimately, I had no desire to possess many followers or to become a world renowned blogger. I simply hoped that I could reignite my passion for writing, process some of my thoughts and feelings, document some of the most important running (and other monumental) moments in my life, and possibly touch one or two people at the end of the day. Once I made the decision to hop back on the “blogging saddle,” I vowed to be candid about my story and to remain committed to my original purpose. As I began to think about my next post, I was even more leery about writing anything that followed the typical endings and beginnings post that we frequently see in December and January...but there I was again questioning it all and finding the intrinsic value of doing such a post. So, here I am writing again and sharing my musings about 2011 and my priorities for 2012.

Immediately after my last run of 2011, I was excited to tally up the miles and reflect on my accomplishments. I ran a total of 2500 miles in 2011 which was over 1300 miles more than I had run in 2010. My total workout miles for the year which included running, walking, biking, using the elliptical, etc. was 3175!! I also PR'ed in every event and ran my first ultra marathon, a trail 50k. So when it was all said and done, I had the best running and overall fitness year of my life! What an accomplishment!! Surprisingly enough, this isn’t what resonates the most with me as I reflect on the past year.

In the middle of September, my running took an unexpected turn. On September 10th, I ran my first 50k and one week later, I ran my best half marathon at 1:30:37, taking the place as 1st overall female and winning some really awesome shoes I might add. = ) Prior to that race, I was having some foot pain and two days after that race, the foot pain became unbearable forcing a 9-week hiatus from running. I failed to listen to my body, too focused on racing, and I suffered a strain in my plantar fascia. I cannot find the words to illustrate the disappointment and frustration that I was feeling at that point. I had already registered for the Detroit marathon scheduled for October and the Indy marathon set for early November. I was looking forward to running yet another PR and ending the year with victory. After some failed attempts at a quick recovery, I was sidelined from running and unable to finish the year with my anticipated marathon PR.

During that time, I struggled even further with my eating disorder. I was at a place that I believed to be recovery but through my treatment, I learned that I had simply minimized my binging with food and strengthened my obsession for running. I was still living my life consumed with weight, size, calories, and grams of fat. I was still striving for perfection and a sense of control that fueled my eating disorder. During my injury as my miles decreased and my weight increased, I struggled even more. I felt alone, isolated, and depressed. I was no longer running each morning to prepare for my day or at night to alleviate stress from a long, strenuous day. I was no longer meeting the group for Tuesday and Saturday runs and I was missing that camaraderie. I was no longer running races on the weekend, thus missing that sense of rush and excitement that comes when you meet or surpass your goals. The bottom line was that I wasn’t running and I simply didn’t know who I was. Running not only provided me with comfort and relief for my eating disorder, it also provided me with a sense of identity, a sense of accomplishment, and self-worth.

Who am I if I am not a runner? How can I “fix” this eating disorder if I can’t run off the calories? How can I watch all my friends put in great miles and meet their goals while I miss out? During these times in my life where it feels as though my world has collapsed (in a very minimal way I admit), I often try to find the deeper meaning of it all. I examine opportunities for self-realization and growth and I use my social worker strengths perspective to turn it all around. So, it went a little something like this. “Yes, you aren’t running but yes, you can still go to the gym and workout. Yes, you gained a few pounds, but perhaps you were too thin before and this is healthier for you? Yes, you aren’t running races on the weekend but you are spending more time with your husband and the ones you love the most. Yes, you aren’t putting in any running miles and you probably won’t meet your mileage goal for the year but you have more time to devote to your other interests. Yes, you are injured but with some patience, commitment, and dedication, you will most likely be healed in the near future.”

Through my own positive reframing and support from my husband, family, friends, and DailyMile community; I was able to work through the feelings of isolation, depression, and anxiety. I continued to work even harder on my eating disorder and began a recovery plan to start running again. As the weeks passed, I slowly began to heal both physically and emotionally. I was able to put in some miles on my 33rd birthday at the end of November. I gradually began to rebuild my mileage and rejoin my running community. Consequently, I ended the year running a few more miles but still falling short of a few of my goals. More importantly, I concluded 2011 overcoming a foot injury feeling more mentally stronger and confident than ever before. I felt like I had been given a test and I think I passed with a B, not too shabby. = )

While I admit that each day is still a struggle with my eating disorder and I am not completely healed from my foot injury, I truly believe that I am on the path to recovery in more ways than one. I am committed to seeking counseling when I need it most, expressing my fears and anxieties, and asking for support from those I love. I learned the value of taking a day off when my body needs it and not worrying about how many calories I did or did not burn off that day. I temporarily let go of some of my running goals, so I can simply enjoy running again. I renewed my gym membership, pledging to cross train more often. (I can’t lie, this truly is a struggle!) While I am still in love with running, something that brings me much joy and comfort, I have found solace in other areas of my life. I strengthened my relationship with my husband, built new friendships while strengthening old ones, and became more invested in my community and helping others. I renewed my love for reading and found great pleasure in Words with Friends. = )

As I look forward to 2012, my priorities include living a healthier and more balanced life which includes focusing on continued physical, emotional, and spiritual growth. I am committed to the process of recovery for my eating disorder, allowing myself to accept imperfections, lack of control, and whatever misfortunes might come my way.

As my husband and I plan for the year to come, we hope to start our family, beginning the journey of parenthood. I have postponed any hard training or racing for the time being as my priorities shift to beginning our family. While the thought of running less, gaining weight, and bringing a new life into this world, terrifies me in ways that I cannot exemplify, I am determined to tackle this fear and embrace a new challenge. While we have hopes and plans for the year to come, I recognize that life is full of uncertainties. Thus, I look forward to whatever comes our way. I embrace each moment, determined to live life to the fullest.

As I end this post, I am reminded why bloggers often write much more frequently. It is difficult to sum up the last five months in just one post!! = )

Happy, Happy New Year to you and yours!! Here’s to a blessed year dedicated to loving, learning, growing, and giving in new and profound ways!!