I count myself to be a pretty lucky girl- things, for the most part, are normally going my way. I’ve got a fabulous family, I get to stay home with my daughter, and despite minor bumps or buggies we are all in great health and spirits! No real complaints… but his summer has done it’s part to throw me a few curveballs.
I launched into the summer feeling like I was on track to being in the best shape of my life. Sure sometimes I was tired, but I chalked that up to being a dance-teaching, marathon-training, mother of a toddler. Life is never perfect…. but it was pretty close. But the summer had a few health blips lined up for me- melanoma… surgery… recovery… and returning to training in the dead heat of a Texas summer. Yikes!
When I was able to lace up my running shoes again post surgery I was tired. Really tired. I looked forward to our trip to Breckenridge because I knew, just knew, everything would be fine when I got away from the heat. I’d been planning a 30+ mile run from Breck to Frisco and back for a good six months and I was already afraid I would have to cut the miles back just a bit since surgery had messed things up but I was sure I would still be able to pack in at least five slow pace, high mileage runs with no problem.
And despite having ease back into running for a month before our Breckenridge vacation, I still struggled through every high altitude run in the mild weather far more than I knew should be normal for me. The longest run I managed was 14 miles. That’s it. A measly 14 miles. And it was a debacle (those details are coming below, for the dedicate reader).
Something wasn’t right.
I get it kiddo. I’m tired too!
So I finally went to the doctor. He listened to me for a moment and said “You probably have mono.”
Mono? Pft… ridiculous! I’m a 33 year old mother of a toddler not a college student. He had to be wrong.
I plowed on through my additional symptoms and insisted that I had to have something to do with heat, or surgery, or anemia. Or- as I was deathly afraid in the depths of my soul- I just didn’t have enough energy naturally to handle all the things in my life that I love investing time and energy in and I just couldn’t hack it as the wonder mom I aspire to be each day. ‘Please don’t tell me that I’m just overextended and can’t handle it!’
He listened patiently and kindly and ran blood tests… including one for Epstein-Barr (mono).
Because, as it turns out, I have mono (and a severe Vitamin D deficiency which is as ironically humorous as vitamin deficiencies and skin cancer can be when paired with my Melanoma journey this summer). I’ve had it long enough that I’m no longer contagious. After careful consideration, he also decided that if maintaining activity kept me sane and didn’t make me feel worse that there was no reason for me to mope about the house waiting to feel like myself again.
Finding out I had mono had a profound effect on my well being. Finally there was a reason. I was simultaneously more tired after giving myself permission to be “sick” and unbelievably relieved and energized knowing that there was a reason for the madness. I can handle my “normal” life.
For a moment things just aren’t going to be my usual brand of “normal.”
I immediately invested myself in finding ways to up my energy nutritionally and have found two smoothies/juices that are helping me power through: mango avocado smoothie juice, and an almond cacao smoothie.
The mango avocado concoction in loaded with mangoes whose high antioxidant vitamin content help protect against oxidative cell damage and support the liver as it neutralizes and removes toxins from your body. Cucumbers contain the minerals sulfur and silicon that help support kidney and liver function as well as potassium that supports healthy fluid balance. Apples are high in pectin which binds to toxins and helps eliminate them from the body as well as provides malic acid which is used by cells for energy production. Avocados are rich in healthy fats, packed with antioxidant vitamins to guard cellular functions, and high in B vitamins that provide adrenal support during times of stress.
The Almond Cacao Smoothie is filled with raw cacao which contains higher antioxidant levels than most fruits and vegetables as well as high levels of magnesium which assists muscle function and relaxation not to mention the amino acid tryptophan which helps to improve your mood. Wheat germ provides protein, B vitamins, vitamin E, and is rich in minerals. Almond butter provides a respectable dose of zinc which is an essential nutrient for healthy immune systems along with protein. Hemp provides omega fatty acids.
I’ve been whipping up a pitcher of one or the other each morning to help pull me through while my energy level is still on the low side.
Mango Avocado Smoothie Juice
- 2 apples
- 2 celery stalks
- 1 large cucumber
- 1 mango
- 1/2 an avocado
- 1 generous tsp flaxmeal
- 1 tbs grade B maple syrup
Directions: Juice apples, celery, and cucumber.
Add juice to a blender with mango, avocado, flaxmeal, and grade B maple syrup and blend until smooth and well incorporated.
Makes four servings.
Almond Cacao Smoothie
- 2 c original hemp milk
- 2 bananas
- 2 tbs raw almond butter
- 1 tbs raw cacao powder
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 2 tbs grad B maple syrup
- 1 tsp wheat germ
Directions: Blend ingredients in a blender and serve cold.
Makes four servings.
Knowing that there as a reason for my exhaustion allowed me to finally forgive myself for the comedy of errors that was my virtual half marathon. The folks at Jost Running have been kind enough to allow me to run their virtual races complimentary for three months and I was exceptionally excited to run the August Virtual Half at high altitude while I was in Breckenridge. Truly I had wanted to do the virtual full as part of my planned 30+ miler I was so hoping to complete before my summer showed me it had other plans, but when I started to level with myself about what was physically feasible while still enjoying a relaxing vacation- the super long runs just had to go!
I’ve finally hit the point in my relationship where a 13 mile training run “isn’t a big deal” so 13.1 miles at a slow steady pace at high altitude didn’t seem like a massive undertaking in theory. It seemed routine enough in my mind that I made the simplest, yet most critical error imaginable in under-planning for my run. It was the morning that the USA Pro Cycling Challenge was set to leave Breck for Steamboat, so the hubs had left very early for a rafting trip so that he wasn’t delayed by road blockages and had taken a key to the house. Grandma and I were left with one key and a toddler who, once dressed and ready, needed to get out of the house for a walk and outdoor play IMMEDIATELY. Since I knew that I’d be gone for two hours and change- slightly longer than Baby Bird’s morning playtime- I suggested that they take the key and we all started out the door together… locking the door behind us.
It only took me a quarter mile to realize I forgot to bring water, so I quickly circled back to the house… that was locked. I did a few loops looking for Grandma and Baby Bird on their walk with no luck but didn’t want to waste too much time because I didn’t know how USA Pro Challenge closures might affect me coming back into town if I delayed my run too long. Plus, its was only 13.1 miles….
Less than two miles in my legs already felt like lead as had become the tradition in my runs over the past few weeks (Of course, I had know idea that I had mono!) which was insanely frustrating since I was maintaining a slow, even pace. Trying to focus on anything besides my heavy legs, I let my mind drift to the fact that…. I was a little thirsty.
Wait… No. Don’t think about that. Plus, the Fire Department always has a water station on the trail four miles out.
Just as I remembered, the Fire Station had water jugs set out for runners on the Summit County Rec Trail just past four miles. And they were empty. And I was tired. I assured my inner genius I should stay committed to this debacle by convincing myself that I could hold out and push slightly beyond where I had planned to turn around until mile 7 on the trail that passed by the high school athletics field- surely there would be a water fountain out there!
Mile seven was an enlightening one. I learned that, in fact, there is not a water fountain available to the public at the sports field. And I remembered that using that as my turn around point meant that the return seven would be uphill. Now, if I’d turned around half a mile early it still would have been up hill… but it would have been at least a half mile less of uphill at 9,000+ feet without any water.
I paused my watch to think.
Herein lies the true beauty of this being a virtual race- had it been a normal race this is where I would have decided to admit personal defeat for the first time and thrown in the towel (of course… they would have had water at every mile so I would have felt less defeated, but that’s beside the point) but as it was it was the only person I was currently beholden to was myself and I needed a second to think.
I paused my watch.
Time needed to stop for a moment. This run was simply me against me… me with me… and my personal course rules that day allowed me to recollect myself before pressing forward. I needed to think for a moment about why I run.
I thought about my inspiring husband, my beautiful baby girl, and the community or runners I have met. I thought about my health- beyond the exhaustion- and happiness. I looked around me at the mountains and back at the path that was appearing deceptively flat, I took a deep breathe, snapped a quick photo of the moment that kept me going, and clicked my watch back on- it was time for life to keep moving.
The beauty of my surroundings and my own internal drive kept me moving for the next three miles until reality in the form of dehydration, altitude, and undiagnosed mono kicked me in the gut and my slow pace went to sloooooow pace. I planned to ask the next cyclist who would pay attention to me on the trail if they had extra water, but everyone was in a major hurry to get into Breckenridge to watch the USA Pro cyclists head to Steamboat. I was closer to a jog by the time I passed a little furniture shop that apparently normally has water setup for runner but didn’t on that day. I must have looked pretty defeated at the time, because the sweet owner was outside and asked me if I needed to come in for a drink.
That’s when the exhaustion really caught up with me. All I could think about was how tired I was and, as I stepped back outside, I noticed that on the main road there was a bus stop.
And I stopped my watch.
I decided to throw in the towel.
I sat down at the bus stop and waited, trying not to think about the fact that I had quit.
And finally figured out that busses wouldn’t be running until USA Pro Challenge had completely exited Breck.
I was four miles from home. I couldn’t call anyone to get me because the roads were closed.
I had two choices- run or walk.
I chose run.
I looked down at my watch and noted the time but left it off. These last four miles weren’t going to be about pace… they were going to be about me and my state of mind. Despite the fact that my footwear choice for the day was road running shoes, I decided skip off the rec trail and run the path along Blue River on the was back- if it was going to just be about me, I wanted it to be as scenic as possible.
Ironically, this became the best part of my run- pace wise and peace of mind wise. Focusing on the trail took my focus off of the rest of my struggles that day. I ended on my own terms and smiling… mentally.
In the end, it took me 2 hours and 22 minutes of running time to make it from our house to the high school back to Main Street- about 14 miles in distance. I’m glad I gave myself the flexibility and freedom that day to focus on what I did instead of getting caught up in the moments where I was doing nothing.
And I learned first hand how important it is to be properly prepared for every run.
And I took a really good nap.