Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Evolution of Goals

To say I'm a goal oriented person is a huge understatement. When I started running a decade ago I went from not running since track in high school (and only sprinting then) to signing up for a marathon as my first ever road race. I like to start small. My desire  - no my need - to have big goals shapes who I am. Goals are unique to the individual, and they're only for me. My meeting, exceeding or changing goals only affects me. Then how is it so hard?

My goal for this summer was to break 20 minutes in the 5k. It was originally my goal last year too, but I abandoned it in favor of a busy distance race schedule and the teeny task of focusing on my small human instead of training. This year was supposed to be the year. It started out so promising earlier this spring with speed training intervals at speeds (6:00/min mile) that I never could've imagined hitting even for a few minutes. I was going to do this.

Fast forward three months. I am not going to do this. Certainly not this year. At this point I recognize even if I really wanted to, my body is not up to running those kinds of speeds. It's not a good idea to even try it. Now it's time to pivot my 2016 goal.

This year has been a very light race schedule. So far I've run the Super Bowl 5k in February, the Shamrock Shuffle 8k in April and the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon in April. Three races in five months isn't the worst, but it's way below my usual race volume. I am registered to run the Deckers Creek Half Marathon next weekend where I shattered my half marathon PR last year. I sadly will not be running that race. I haven't dwelled on it (much) after coming to the realization that my body just can't do that right now. I was registered for the Charlevoix Half Marathon in Northern Michigan in late June and switched to the 10k. At this point that goal seems lofty.

A few years ago I wrote a blog questioning what makes one a real runner. My conclusion is that you're just doing it makes you a real runner. It doesn't matter if your 5k PR is 15 minutes or 45 minutes. If you're lacing up and pushing from start to finish, you're a runner. After a decade of running and countless races my body is pissed at me. Okay it's pissed at me for a lot of reasons, but after two sluggish runs this weekend I don't feel like a real runner. I feel like an imposter lacing up my shoes and donning my cute running gear. Doubt has crept into my usual bad ass demeanor.

It's been a rough month or so. After all the health drama of the last few weeks my GI doctor at the University of Michigan decided I needed an aggressive course of antibiotics and a nine-week course of steroids to finally calm down this Crohn's flare that thus far has refused to be contained. I HATE steroids. I haven't taken them for 15 years because they're atrocious. Any time it's been on the table I've done everything possible to take them off the menu. This time there is no other alternative, and I find myself swallowing my pride along with four Prednisone every morning (plus antibiotics, an acid reducer and four over the counter supplements. My husband threatens to get me a pill box. He's not amusing.)

This flare has made me face reality for the first time in 19 years of having Crohn's. That may sound like a silly statement given that I've had so many surgeries, but surgery is to fix something. After surgery you generally feel better than you did before. Managing a flare is different. It's harder to fix. It's the first time in nearly two decades that I've really faced the fact that I have to manage this disease and make said management a priority. That means a priority over running and busyness and my own ego. I have to do that for me and my family. It's not easy to admit.

Steroids suck for a lot of reasons. Their side effects are pretty significant, but they are generally successful in settling down my Crohn's flares. Unfortunately it comes with significant joint pain and swelling. I feel like my knees and back are on fire. Squatting down to play with my son makes me feel like I'm 80 years old. My skin actually hurts when I touch it. My body is not cooperating mostly because my immune system is being shut down by aggressive steroids. Running two miles twice this weekend made me feel like I was not a real runner. I know that's absurd, but having to take steroids has gotten into my head. What if my body doesn't bounce back after this flare? What if this is the flare that changes everything?      

The last time I was on steroids was one of the most challenging times of my life. I was starting law school. I had three abdominal surgeries in eight months (during my first year of law school). It was a lot, but back then I didn't realize I wouldn't get better. The surgeries were going to fix things. This time I have a reality check.

Me on Prednisone in 2000. Holy puffy face.

This, my friends, is why there is therapy. (Also writing this blog is therapy and gives me something to do at 3:18 am when my dog woke me and my body decided sleep is overrated.) I know the easy answer sounds like I should stop running entirely for a few weeks, but while my body might like that my mind would rebel. So it's slower speeds, walking when I need to and keeping my perspective. I have a long summer ahead with a light race calendar, and that makes me so anxious. How can I run these towns without a busy race schedule? Maybe I should go back to my idea of brunching these towns for the summer or drinking gin and tonics in these towns (who are we kidding...I'm doing that anyway). Our amended summer travel season (both personal and professional) begins this week, so I'm looking forward to short runs in new (and familiar) cities to keep my running morale up. 

Goals are a huge part of what defines me. Instead of breaking 20 minutes in the 5k my new summer goal is to not let steroids take over. My goal is to get healthy. Seems easy enough right? Even with sore joints and a puffy face I will rock this sh*t out. I'll be a little slower and I'll be honest probably a little grouchier. But it's nine weeks. It's like a half marathon training program only instead of logging lots of miles I'm working my way back to healthy. It's a much loftier goal than I'm used to. I should probably get started by going back to bed...

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