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The Recovery I Needed

In March, after sustaining my fourth stress fracture in the past three years, I wrote that it was time to take a step back and re-evaluate – to stop “fighting the water.” I’ve fought like hell these past few years to try and keep myself healthy and running like I love to do. And while I was tired of fighting for many reasons, internally I knew I had one big fight left in me. Because there was one thing that I hadn’t tackled head on in a very long time: my eating disorder. 

I’m not dense: I’ve known for a long time that I’m the living, walking example of RED-S (also known as “the female athlete triad.”) I’ve known that probably a huge reason that my bones keep breaking is because I have a 20-year history with anorexia. But I wanted to be that person that could right the ship on my own. I’d been in and out of treatment so many times in my life, I wasn’t ready to admit that, in my mid-30’s, I was STILL battling it. There’s an awful sense of shame in feeling helpless to fix things when you pride yourself on being self-sufficient and able to do hard things. There’s a paralysis that comes with the cognitive dissonance of KNOWING what you need to do, but continually falling short of that.

But the hardest things to fix are the things that we don’t want to admit to ourselves. And I finally admitted to myself that I couldn’t do it on my own.

So in April, I took a leave of absence from work and headed to Seattle, where I’ve spent the last three months at Opal Food & Body Wisdom, an eating disorder treatment facility. 

I resisted more intensive treatment for so long because this isn’t my first rodeo – I was first diagnosed with anorexia nervosa at the age of 16. It started with a month-long hospitalization over Thanksgiving and Christmas in 1999 and spanned the rest of high school and college, with stints in various levels of treatment including a stay in a residential facility immediately post-college. 

I spent Thanksgiving and Christmas in the hospital when I was 16. 99% of the time I was on bedrest, so being wheeled to see Santa was actually an occasion worth smiling for.

As a result of being in and out of treatment and being very visibly physically ill, I spent the vast majority of my youth as “the sick girl.” It’s a chapter in my life I haven’t talked about publicly, because it was an identity I was eager to shed. After my stay in residential treatment post-college, the disorder seemed to quiet. Finding myself in a solid state of recovery, I promised myself I’d move on. So I stopped talking about it. I went to law school, became an attorney, and buried the disorder in my past.

When I started racing and gaining attention for my athletic accomplishments, I didn’t talk about it during interviews. I didn’t mention it during my rise to dominance in obstacle racing. I didn’t tell interviewers who asked me about my athletic background that the reason I didn’t play sports in college was because I was too sick and weak to even walk up stairs, let alone play sports. I didn’t mention that my friends and family spent those years worried if I’d wake up in the morning. I didn’t want to “dwell in the past,” I told myself. In my mind, it was a chapter of my life that had passed, and one that maaaaaaybe I would speak about when the time was “right,” but I could never figure out when that would be. I was racing strong, running strong, feeling strong, and, in my mind, I no longer identified with the disorder. 

2015. I remember this finish line photo – I had just won the Spartan National Series and should have been thrilled and proud. But a comment from a dude about my “weird body” led me to pick apart my body for hours and actually de-tag myself from this photo.

The reality is while I no longer defined my world around my eating disorder identity, for all of those years, I hadn’t let go of it fully. I hung on to disordered thoughts and eating habits. The only difference now was that I had sport to fixate on instead. And I was at the top of the obstacle racing world. I was a “normal” BMI, I was muscular, and I was winning every race, so it was easy to minimize my disordered relationship with food. It was easy to compartmentalize the thoughts and say “hush, I’ll deal with you later,” or to think that there actually wasn’t a problem because I was performing so well. It was ok to have a different diet or eating patterns because “I was an athlete.” It was ok to compare my body to other female athletes on the start line and to covet their abs, because that’s just “what women do.” It was acceptable to dehydrate myself and starve myself before cover shoots was part of the gig. As long as I was competing and winning, “just managing” with food didn’t seem like that big of deal. I was getting away with it. So clearly, there was no problem.

Until there was. 

While I had been able to fool myself, the body doesn’t forget so easily. It doesn’t forget the years of starvation and malnourishment. It doesn’t forget the magnitude of damage done to your growing bones: damage so bad, that I was diagnosed with osteopenia at age 16. 

I was a ticking time bomb, which exploded with my first stress fracture (the case of the femurs!) in 2016. At the time I could write off one stress fracture as a fluke – it happens to all athletes. But the string of bone stress injuries that ensued are not so easy to write off. 

Look – I’m not dumb. As I threw my hands in the air and proclaimed “I’m doing everything right” to avoid injury, I struggled with the growing internal self-flagellation for knowing that I wasn’t doing EVERYTHING I could. I could do all the PT exercises, I could do the slow return to run progression, I could take supplements, I could spend thousands of dollars on all the fancy recovery tools, but I knew one thing deep in my heart: there is no substitute for plentiful food and nourishment in order to prevent injuries. 

Logically, I knew all of this, but MAKING myself do it proved much harder. I spent the past year telling myself I’d make changes. I told myself that I’d rather be in a much larger body and competing healthy, than in a smaller body and be broken standing on the sidelines. That “looking the part” of an athlete doesn’t mean shit if you are too injured to even get to the start line. I knew these things. And at times, I thought I was succeeding in changing things.

A few days before the calcaneal stress fracture and hitting bottom. Pop-Tarts couldn’t save me here.

But with the fourth stress fracture two weeks before Barkley this year, I hit bottom. With sport taken from me, I looked around at all the things that had propped up my “management” of the eating disorder, and realized my disorder was all I had left. 

I had spent the past 20 years starving. Literally: not just physically, but emotionally. I was tired of fighting, and so fucking tired of being hungry. 

When I called up my parents to tell them I was checking into treatment, I wasn’t prepared for the flood of emotions that came with this decision, this time with the motivation coming solely from myself.  I’ve been able to do some REALLLY hard things in my life, so I felt a sense of shame that I couldn’t fix this on my own. I felt guilty for taking a leave of absence from work and forcing my co-workers to shoulder my workload. I felt guilty for telling my sponsors I was disappearing from racing and competing for awhile. I questioned whether I actually needed treatment given that (a) EVERYONE seems to have a fucked-up relationship with their food and body, and (b) I’d been “managing it” for so long. 

The truth is that I’ve been “managing” a delusion: I’ve EXCELLED at white-knuckling my way through the world of eating disorders, and I probably could have done so for the rest of my life. But it would have been a miserable, hollow, existence. More than just sport, the disorder had taken a toll on every aspect of my life: my relationships, my ability to connect, and hell – even my ability to feel my feelings. I had a sense that there was more that could be had from life, and I needed to take a leap of faith to do it – one that required stepping out of my life for the short term in order to re-engage in it fully in the long term. 

I went into treatment thinking that my main goal was to re-learn how to feed and nourish myself in order stem the constant bone injuries. While that was an important part, for sure, what I learned was that I really needed to give space to EVERYTHING ELSE other than the food. Engaging in the disorder had enabled me to tunnel vision my life to avoid dealing with other things that were bigger and scarier: fears over the loss of sport, the loss of relevancy, grief over past relationships, the need and want for connection to others but going about it in ways would never satisfy that need…the list goes on. 

Sometimes what you get isn’t always what you thought you needed. And at Opal, I started learned everything beyond just how to feed myself. I learned how to re-establish trust with my hunger after 20 years of ignoring it, and how to re-establish trust with my body after 20 years of mistrusting it. I learned that I can connect to others without the veneer of accomplishments, achievements or admiration. I learned that it’s ok to want to compete and win as long as you have others means to fill you up when that doesn’t happen. I learned that it’s ok to be sad and grieve when I can’t engage in my sport how I’d like to, but that I can survive and thrive without it. And most importantly, I learned that it’s ok (and wonderful!) to feel my feelings. 

While this post is about eating disorders, it’s also really not – it’s really about learning to live again. Because, as cliché as the saying is, eating disorders are never really about the food. But considering I have suffered from an eating disorder for over half of my life and considering I’m letting this out in the public now, I figured I might as well talk about a few things eating disorder-related that you will likely hear me speak and write about going forward:

There is no stereotypical eating disorder

I’m pausing to address this, because I know I know what you are all thinking: “BUT WHAT ABOUT THE POP-TARTS?” Shockingly, yes, even in the depths of my disorder, I ate the Pop-Tarts. And still do. My eating disorder doesn’t look like what many people would typically think of for a competitive athlete. As opposed to elimination of foods, my issues have always been eating “appropriate” amounts. I’ve been PETRIFIED of the feeling of fullness, and I couldn’t sit down to a full meal. I’ve spent the past twenty years of my life in a constant state of physical hunger and a constant mistrust of my body, which is an exhausting place to be (Note: this is particularly compounded by diet and wellness culture that has taught us to NOT trust our hunger cues, and to do whatever we can to not listen to them. Since when did having an appetite become a bad thing??)

Eating disorders come in all sizes, and health comes in all sizes

At Opal, I was surrounded by amazing people of all shapes and sizes, all struggling with disordered relationships with food. I connected with fellow clients who had similar restrictive behaviors as myself, but whose bodies looked entirely different. Opal follows the principles of “Health at Every Size” and intuitive eating (caveat: not early in one’s recovery, but as the ultimate goal). I’ll admit that I initially resisted both concepts, but over my time there, I learned to confront my own internalized oppression and judgments around food, weight, and body size. I finally understood that body size is not as simple as the “calories in, calories out” model diet culture has told us our entire lives. Someone isn’t in a larger body because they “lack willpower” or they are lazy. Fatness is not a simple “choice.” Fat shaming and fat phobia are real. Weight stigma and thin privilege (which I have, and benefit from) are real. I’ve become passionate about fighting weight stigma and speaking out about thin privilege and fat phobia because, regardless of what size of body you are in in, it hurts us all (I’m briefly touching on these here, but these concepts deserve a much more robust piece for a future date).

While I have faith I’ll get there, I’m not recovered

I want to believe in full recovery – in a life completely free of any eating disordered thoughts. There are many stories that tell me this is possible. I’m currently in the stage where I have the thoughts – I note the thoughts without judgment – but I don’t act on them. Oover time, the thoughts are getting quieter, but I know it’s not a quick fix. I’ve spent 20 years dealing with them – full recovery doesn’t happen in a few months. And while my time at Opal has ended, I’m well-aware that my journey has only just begun. 

So why talk about this now? It’s a question I’ve asked myself, and one I’ve weighed heavily before writing about this. I could have easily stayed silent about what I’ve been doing the past few months. There’s value in protecting my recovery from the greater masses, as the peanut gallery can sometimes be exceptionally harsh.

But when I balance the factors, I’m confident this is stand I’m ready to take. For so long, I’ve prided myself on sharing my vulnerability in talking about injury and sport. But it’s been a selective vulnerability, and hiding my disorder has left me in a paralyzing state of cognitive dissonance, which has affected how I’ve been able to engage with the world. It’s led me to even feel MORE disconnected when I share selectively and don’t address the elephant that has been crowding my room for many years. 

I’m aware that I’ve held judgments around the idea of “sharing my story.” I’m aware that phrase makes me cringe, as I’ve previously thought sharing could be construed as attention-seeking. And the last thing I’ve ever wanted was sympathy, or to proclaim that I’m somehow different. I’m not different: my story is ALL too common. 

Thankfully, many brave women and men, both in and out of the athletic world, have stepped up to speak about their struggles (a special shout out to Hannah Fields, who unknowingly influenced me to seek treatment at Opal after she bravely spoke about her disorder last year). But the vast majority of these voices speak about their eating disorder struggles in the past – once they have “beaten it”, or once they have recovered. 

No one likes to talk about it when they are face down in the arena.

While I’m not quite face down in the arena anymore, I am slowly picking myself up and dusting myself off. And I think it’s important that we have these conversations at all stages of the fight. Disorder and shame thrive in the darkness and silence, so I’m thrusting my disorder and shame into the light where it has no place left to hide. 

I have a lot of unknowns going forwards: the unknown of where my body size is going to land when continue to nourish it well, the unknown of how people will relate to or receive this, and, the scariest thing to face – the unknown of whether I’ve damaged by body so badly from so many years of starvation that, even with proper nourishment, I may still not be able to stem the bone injuries. But, for the first time in many years, I feel wholly aligned: my head, my heart, and my soul.  And that, to me, is freedom. 

For those of you out there who have paved the path and gave me the hope and courage to tackle recovery again, thank you. For those of you out there currently struggling and wondering if there is more to life, I see you. I wondered the same thing. I believe it now. And I’m holding space for you.

So this is me: flawed, disordered, and dealing with a mental illness for the past 20 years. I’m not ashamed anymore. I’m not afraid anymore. And, most importantly, I’m not starving anymore. 

Instead, I’m full of hope. 

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Don’t Fight the Water

When I first started swimming, I couldn’t understand why it was so hard. I knew there were probably a million reasons for it (my last swimming lessons being at 8 years old, super long limbs and short torso, a runner’s mobility), but every swim felt like I was thrashing against the water – it was so exhausting. 

When you have a best friend who is an Olympic medalist swimmer, you clearly go and ask her what is wrong. Of the many things she told me, number one was “don’t fight the water. Let the water guide you – work with it.” It took me a bit, but at some point, that notion clicked, and swimming became much easier (though I still liken myself to a drowning porpoise and regularly get passed by 70 year olds).

I’ve taken that simple phrase, however, and taped it above my desk at work: “Don’t Fight the Water.” Because, unknowingly, over these past few months, I’ve been fighting the water in so many ways in my life, and I’m realizing it’s a battle I can’t win.

A few days ago, at the end of a run, I felt a sharp pain in the back of my heel. With a big race “out there” looming, I shut it down, rested, and prayed it’d get better. Frankly, I thought I had majorly effed up my Achilles, and feared the worst – months and months of tendon rehab. An MRI told a different story though: my Achilles is pristine (yaaaay!). Unfortunately, however, I had an early stage bone stress injury in my calcaneus.

Frankly, I’ve never been so relieved to have a bone injury – compared to an destroyed tendon, bones are WAAAAAY easier to deal with, and we caught it early enough. But the gutting loss of a season that was just about to get started cut deep – deeper than any loss of a race before. 

I shed my tears, spent a few days on the merry-go-round of self-flagellation, and then, like I’ve done so many times before with every injury/setback/failure – took stock of the situation.

This one was clearly on me. After coming off injury in the fall, time was short in order to be semi-race ready. I felt the mounting pressure every day, the growing despair of being nowhere close to where I was a year ago at this time. I pushed, perhaps a bit too aggressively, knowing that I was riding a line, and taking a risk. But the passion was so strong to get back “out there,” it was one I was willing to take.

Sometimes risks pay off. And sometimes they blow up in your face.  

Unfortunately, this calculated risk resulted in the latter. But if I had to do it again, would I do it any differently? If I’m honest with myself, probably not. 

I think the hardest part is that I learned this lesson once before: after breaking my femur, I pushed aggressively trying to get back for the Spartan Race World Championships in 2016. That also blew up in my face, resulting in the sacral stress fracture. I’ve been beating myself up these past few days, telling myself that I should know better. That, for better or worse, I have a history of bone injuries, and that trying to “outsmart” my body a second time was a recipe for disaster. 

Currently, I’m working on giving myself grace. I don’t really think this was a “mistake,” but more arrogance that I thought I could escape unscathed. But sometimes we make the same mistakes twice. Sometimes we have to learn a lesson over and over again. Sometimes we throw caution to the wind in spite of the risks, and that’s ok. 

As much as being sidelined again for a short bit sucks, I’d rather be here than not having attempted to race at all. As I said last year: “failure is not giving myself the opportunity to try.” I tried – unfortunately, it resulted in me not even getting to the start line. There are some passions in life that are worth it, and this was one of them. (let’s be honest – I imagine I’ll have to learn this lesson again at some point. I think most athletes do.)

All that being said, what’s become crystal clear to me is that, just like fighting the water in swimming, I can’t fight my body and win. The body will always have the last laugh. 

Frankly, it’s exhausting. Worrying about race deadlines and readiness and every ache and pain is all consuming, and I know there’s a better way, because I’ve done it before: when I started training and racing after my sacral stress fracture, I cleared my calendar. I went really slowly in build-up. I was ok letting things flow. I didn’t set artificial timelines.  And I made it back and started racing happier and with more passion than I ever have before. 

I’ve taken my risk, and I failed. So it’s time to take the foot off the gas pedal. To slow down in order to speed up. To heal my body, and get rid of this injury cycle once and for all. And with a history of bone injuries, a key part of that is going to be getting my hormones figured out. Letting my body rest. And honestly, gaining weight and body fat. I’m not dumb, so let’s talk about the elephant in the room: I’ve known for awhile that I’ve been hanging onto a muscular, lean physique that, while it might have worked for OCR, is not compatible with ultrarunning and multi-day endeavors like I want to do. I thought I could be the exception, but once again, the body has the last laugh. As uncomfortable as it may be for the vain part of myself, I’ll likely be more resilient and injury free with extra body fat and weight. Maybe not, but considering I’ve done all the other work (strength training, rehab, Vitamin D levels, etc) and I’m still suffering from bone injuries, it’s worth a try.

I’ve had multiple people tell me that I should hide this latest injury – that multiple bones injuries like this are shameful, and that I’m opening myself up to criticism. I understand many athletes hide injuries, but that’s not me. Maybe at one point in my life I thought I was invincible, and I thought admitting injury would make me be less of a “badass,” but that’s no longer me. This is my life, and my story, and I will own my mistakes and shortcomings, in all their full glory. It’s true to who I am, and the type of person I want to be. And if I can help others along the way in their journey, and let them know that “hey, we all struggle in our own ways,” even better. 

As scary as this all is, I’m actually excited to tackle it.  I’m excited to get back to racing healthy, and in due time (this summer most likely, but I’m not setting any firm plans). What’s funny is that, as tough as this injury cycle has been, I’ve never let go of the unwavering belief that my best running and racing days are still ahead. I’m so excited just thinking of it. 

Life is pretty grand when you let the water guide you. 

As always, a HUGE thank you to my sponsors who have stuck by me through the ups and downs: HumanN, Ultimate Direction, Altra, Sufferfest Beer, Big Spoon Roasters, Rocktape, Goodr, and Pete & Gerry’s. As a sponsored athlete, being injured is one of the worst feelings when you think about telling them (especially when you’ve JUST signed on…sorry Altra…). But these companies are rockstars, and I’m so thankful they support me in every aspect of my life. And to Dr. Brink at Premiere Spine & Sport, who has served as an invaluable resource in learning about movement and my body. And, of course, to Coach David Roche: he’s always tried to rein me in (sometimes I don’t listen…and look what happens), but more importantly, he’s been the biggest advocate of me as a human being, not as a runner. I can’t imagine a better coach to have in my corner.

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2018: The Year of Letting Go

Several months ago, I had a long conversation with one of my best friends from law school. 

“Amelia,” she said, “You are really good at holding on to ropes. And you excel at making sure you don’t let go of one rope until you have a firm grasp on another one. But sometimes that rope is cut from you – how do you handle the freefall?” 

Hmmm. “Not very well” would be a gross understatement. 

In looking back over these past 12 months, I’ve faced that freefall a few times – some in splendid ways, others in heart-wrenching ways. I don’t really believe in defining our lives based on 12-month periods (“oh, that was tough year,” or “that was a wonderful year!”), but I do believe in the end of a year as a natural time to reflect back on reoccurring themes and lessons in our lives, and how those shape our progress forward. 

And if there was one mantra I repeated to myself over and over in 2018, it was “let go.” 

Continue reading 2018: The Year of Letting Go
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A Year of Return to Running Logs

Several months ago, I promised that I would share my return to running logs for those interested, not thinking that anyone would actually want to see them. Heh. Apparently, some folks were interested.

Extremely belated, but here they are (embedded below, or you can follow this link): Amelia’s Return to Running Log

Before you take a look, an important personal note:

I struggled mightily with whether to keep in the “injury notes” comments. I use this column with my coach to communicate any issues, etc., and I’ve made a point to OVERreport any niggle, in case we need to stop and readjust. Reading back through, I realize how absolutely scared I was to run. From a third person reading in isolation, you may think “holy shit this girl is a hypochondriac.”

And that’s fine if you do. Ultimately, I decided to keep the comments in there to keep it real – to show the mental anguish of coming back from injury. Coming off a year of not being able to run, EVERY ache and pain struck the fear of God into me. Reading back through the comments now is pretty hard – I can see HOW scared I was. I was paralyzed by the fear of reinjury, and had absolutely zero trust of my body. I spent most of this past year simultaneously being grateful to be able to run and being scared spitless that it was all going to be taken from me again in an instant. The mental block of being constantly broken was haunting. So I left the notes in there to show this dark side, to show that what we see through the highlight reel of other’s social media isn’t what is going on in our head.

I write this all to say that if you are coming back from injury and feeling all the feels, you aren’t alone. Freakouts are normal. But learning to rebuild that trust is critical. It’s only been recently (a year out), that I’m beginning to feel “normal” again.

You’ll notice in the logs that I had several various freak outs about different injury scares – (foot, tibia, femur, etc – you name a body part). Each one of these required 5-10 days off from running. But you’ll notice that early time off made it so these never progressed into anything worse. So my return to running was ANYTHING but smooth. It was also for this reason that I decided to include an entire year of the log – while the initial “return to running  ” ramp up only lasts a few months, that doesn’t mean the battle ends.

A few procedural notes:

  • For the first few weeks, all runs were done at no faster than a 10min/pace. As Coach David Roche said, “we are not running, we are getting the bones, tendons and muscles used to pounding.”
  • I started with 10-15 minutes of barefoot walking a day – some on grass, some on an incline treadmill
  • Pretty much all my running was done on dirt – I rarely hit asphalt.
  • For the first few weeks, I stuck on a dirt track where I made a lot of loops – makes it easier to abort and not be an idiot if need be.
  • A few weeks after return to running, I was knocked over by two dogs while running and ended up with a tibial plateau bone bruise and torn lateral meniscus, which required 3-4 weeks off from running. So I pretty much started over (again!) from ground zero in February. (hence the large chunk of XT (cross-training))
  • ONE FULL REST DAY A WEEK NO MATTER HOW MUCH I KICK AND SCREAM
  • Coach uses minutes, not miles (except for long runs), and we made that switch partway through the year. I didn’t request it, but it works well for me so I don’t fixate on mileage
  • Log doesn’t include my strength work, which is generally 2-3x week and includes squats, deadlifts, lunges and other single leg exercises in addition to upper body and grip work for obstacle racing.
  • I only included until end of November this past year because…I’m lazy and you get the gist. Since November 2017, I’ve been hitting 60-70 mpw, with one big week at 90 before taper.
  • First tab of the log is the day to day, and I added a second tab which shows you weekly mileage totals
  • Yes, it would be much easier if I just posted you all to Strava to see this. I understand the log is probably not the most user-friendly to read. But to ward off the “why are you not on Strava” questions – I know myself well enough to know, at this point, I too easily fall into the comparison trap (which led my down the past to a broken femur in the first place). I don’t care about people seeing my stuff (I’d actually love to share!), but I’d need to prevent myself from looking at other folks..like the only drunk goggles on gmail to prevent drunk emailing (oh…college)

Some  stats:

  • Highest mileage week (through November 2017) was 65 miles, but the bulk has sat around 35-50 (after the gradual ramp-up). Since the end of the log, I’ve been at 65-70mpw consistently with one week at 90.
  • I didn’t hit a 20 miler until December 23rd, 2017, over a year since I started running   again (which may surprise some folks). Up until December, longest run was the Spartan Race Word Championships in Tahoe. We’ve focused on getting consistent lower mileage 5-6x week versus long “epic” runs (which is ALL I used to do pre-case of femurs)
  • For those interested in my pace, “easy” in logs means MAF, which is around 148bpm for me. It’s difficult to correlate that to pace since I rarely run purely flat and most of my runs have a fair amount of vert. Hence, using HR as a guide.

Every runner’s journey back is going to be different, and I imagine there are a lot of you out there being like “wow she’s still so low mileage!” or “she took it WAY too conservatively.” Sure, perhaps. I know plenty of other runners who have ramped up much faster and been just fine. For me, getting over the mental block of rein jury and the fear of high mileage probably made me more conservative than we needed to be. But I also was off from running    for almost a year, and, therefore, we had to treat me like a brand new runner. If you have a shorter layoff (3-4 months), you may be able to return to mileage much quicker (general rule of thumb is that if you are off of running  for over 9months, maybe even 6 months, you are pretty much starting over from ground zero. Sucks, I know).

Feel free to reach out with any questions you may have – as always, I’m not a doctor nor do I pretend to play one, and I can only speak to my unique experience. Every runner, and every injury is going to be different.

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/e/2PACX-1vRWfTWxs-XPJCJq9FCeuhOmClDFtR5OvAfwTVdi7_htcJvC4WjxXk78A3XAmYCdgdJBnHfI-fTGZtZS/pubhtml

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The Injury Commandments

While it’s not something I’m exactly proud of, if there’s one thing I’ve become well-versed in this past year and a half, it’s been dealing with injury. And not because I’m the master of recovering and returning to sport in record time, but because I failed hardcore at it. I screwed up injury recovery in pretty much every way possible, and I paid for that. I’ve spent a lot of time this past year writing about the mental side of injury, yet haven’t touched much on the nitty-gritty of rehab and rebuilding, for two main reasons:

(1) I made a lot of really foolish mistakes
(2) I’ve been afraid of jinxing myself (seriously, I’m superstitious like that)

Yet, like with all the writing I do, I always hope that my blunders, screw-ups and errors can hopefully help someone else, so I figured it was time to nut up and admit all the things I did wrong, the (few) things I did right, and the things I wish I had done differently (#nojinxnojinxjnojinx).

DISCLAIMER BECAUSE I’M AN ATTORNEY AND REALIZE THAT THESE DISCLAIMERS DON’T WORK ANYWAY: Please realize that this list is personal to me and based on my experience. I’mnot a doctor, nor do I play one on a 30-minute sitcom (though I always liked to think that Elliot from “Scrubs” was my soulmate). These are simply things that worked for me: take what you want, and leave the rest.

Continue reading The Injury Commandments

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Race Happy

I feared my return to racing, and I faced that fear. I feared not being the athlete that I once was, and I’ve wrestled with my struggle to live up to those expectations in the rebuilding process.

What I haven’t talked about, however, is that there is another reason I feared returning to racing, and this one is more difficult to grapple with than worrying about sub-par race results.

I feared my own return to racing because I feared the person racing makes me.

And I didn’t want to go back to her.

For as much as I love the sport of obstacle racing, I wasn’t quite sure I actually loved the circuit of racing anymore.

Continue reading Race Happy

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Recovery: On realizing you aren’t superhuman

It’s been 6 weeks since that fateful run where lightning bolts shot down my leg.

When the initial MRI was taken, and my sentence was given (12 weeks until running, etc.), a part of me held out hope in the back of my mind that the doctors were just being conservative. C’mon – I’m the girl who returned from knee surgery to win World’s Toughest Mudder exactly 8 weeks post-op. Surely, by 6 weeks out, I’d be close to running again. I’m superhuman, or so people tell me.

Instead, after 5 days of testing walking about, I’m back on crutches. 4 weeks of non-weight bearing, they initially told me. Never would I imagine it could possibly be…more. (c’mon…I’M SUPPOSED TO HEAL LIKE JOHN CENA, PEOPLE)

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When it all comes crashing down

There are times in life when you feel like everything is FINALLY coming together, like life is finally making sense.  And you are happy. Really, truly happy and excited for what’s to come.

Unfortunately, it always seems like life has other plans for you. Maybe a reminder that “heeeey there, Amelia – you’re flying a bit too high – don’t be going all Icarus on me now. Remember that time you accidentally stepped on a  newt while running? Well karma wants to come back and kick you in the nuts right now.”

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Sean O’Brien 100k and the Golden Ticket

In November, I made a really bonehead move. After securing a Western States lottery ball with my Georgia Death Race (and first ultra) finish last spring, I completely failed to submit my qualifying time in the window provided. I could give excuses – it was the week before World’s Toughest Mudder, I had just moved to California and started a new job, etc. But in reality, I just blew it. I was angry at myself for a hot minute (though, the chances of making it in the lottery to the prestigious Western States was like……zero). But I quickly got over it, and moved on. Besides, I wasn’t READY for Western States, I told myself. Plenty of time for that, Amelia.

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Best comment of the day: “You have the largest arms of any runner I know.” Gee…thanks.

But when OCR season wound down in November, I was looking for a late-winter, early spring ultra – something to fill my “offseason.” Lo and behold, Sean O’Brien 100k appeared on ultra sign-up. And lo and behold, it was a Golden Ticket race (top two male and female finishers get an automatic entry into Western States). So in a state of irrationality, I thought “hell, if I’m such an idiot that I can’t even properly get into the lottery for Western States, maybe, just MAYBE, I’ll just run my way in.”

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Reflections: 2015 in Review


Is this the real life?

I found myself asking that question several times throughout 2015. Ok, maybe on an (almost) daily basis. (And then it’d be followed by hours of trying to get “Bohemian Rhapsody” out of my head)

cropped-IMG_0616.jpgBut, no, seriously – 2015 was a trip. Tumultuous at times, but so incredibly, freaking awesome at others. I constantly have to remind myself to take a look back at the last few years and really take in and embrace the sideways turn my life took back in 2011, and where it’s brought me to today – the highs, the lows, and sometimes, the utter ridiculousness.

But as the sport continues to grow and evolve (and actually be defined as “a sport”), I’d like to think I continue to grow and evolve with it. And I do so, in part, by taking stock of what has happened, and letting that help shape my future.

So what did 2015 teach me?

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