Here is a link to a PDF of an article I wrote for Phoenix Magazine:
After making the decision to end my season a bit earlier than anticipated, I was left with a bit of ‘free’ time before settling back into a routine. My good friend and former training partner Michael Coe pitched the idea to go visit our mutual friend in Iceland.
The mutual friend I’m referring to is the Icelandic legend himself, Kari Karlsson. Kari was also on the team with Michael and I at Berkeley, and owns the national records in Iceland in every running event from 3,000m up to the Marathon – the same event he qualified and ran in the 2012 Olympic Games.
We spent the majority of our time in Iceland traveling around and using running as a way to explore the country. We’d half run, half walk everywhere we visited to see as much of the beautiful landscape as possible. For any of my readers who are also runners, I highly recommend taking a run-vacation to Iceland in the summer. It’s absolutely incredible… and in case you need a little more convincing, I invite you to watch this video I put together that shows some of the amazing places we went! Enjoy:
(PS- use that HD button)
The path to self discovery is not always straight. In fact, it feels more like aimlessly wandering through a forest than walking a path; but thats the thing about discovery… You aren’t really discovering something if you already know the way. This path is one that you have to blaze yourself. Your story isn’t one that anyone else can dictate, and much like its direction, it is completely unique to you. There will be obstacles along the way that require ingenuity, strength of character, and diligence to overcome; you may even find that the best way to continue on is to change direction all together. Ultimately it boils down to the timeless cliché of enjoying the journey rather than reaching the end. Although it’s a message I preach to others and have been told a thousand times myself, over the last six months I was not living this message.
After graduating in the late part of Spring 2015, I set out on my quest to run at the 2016 Olympic Trials. I had only been running for a year after my surgery, but every week I felt a bit stronger than the week before. Although I’d set a a lofty goal, I was completely focused on the process and enjoying every day. During the Fall of 2015, I had put together more than four consecutive months of 80-90 miles of running per week, while completing workouts that were comparable to the best ones I’d done even before getting sick. I felt weightless, and I looked forward to waking up every day to run; I even started a GoFundMe page in order to document my experience, a project that in my mind was sure to have a storybook ending. It was truly the best I’d ever felt while running.
Then, 2016 came around and threw me a curveball. I twisted my ankle on an easy training run and naively tried to continue running on it the next day by splinting it up. I couldn’t bear the thought of losing my momentum, so I convinced myself that
it was a calculated risk I was willing to take. In terms of my self discovery path/forest analogy, it was like stumbling upon a rapid river just upstream of a waterfall and deciding to try to swim across. The result of this decision was an abrupt plunge off the metaphorical waterfall (metaphorifalls)
– straight into an injured achilles. Every day spent injured was an eternity, and it took three full months of cross training and recovery before I could run again. By that time, it felt as though i’d lived a lifetime in my head, silently contemplating the implications of my missed training on the likelihood of making it to the Olympic Trials.
I tried my best to get myself back into shape, but it was apparent that my fitness was not where it had been, and all I could think about was an impending failure; in my mind all of the people who had generously backed my project and what I was trying to do were going to be let down. I stopped enjoying what I was doing and started panicking. When workouts arrived, insecurity and anxiety would surface and I was unable to run them to potential. Every time I stepped on the track I felt negative emotions well up in my chest; my own psyche was my biggest adversary, and it felt oddly familiar.
I started running when I was nine years old and was fairly successful right away. It was something that came naturally to me, and fueled my competitive drive. When I was eleven, I started struggling to keep up with my teammates due to growing pains in my knees, and it started causing panic attacks when I would lose. Eventually, I couldn’t finish a race without breaking down, hyperventilating, and crying – it no longer had anything to do with my knees. I wanted to win again so badly, but the harder I forced it, the more my emotions pushed back. My parents strongly suggested that I quit the sport for a while and focus on other things, and if I wanted to come back to it I could decide that later; so I did. When I came back to the sport two years later, I had relinquished my expectations and just enjoyed running again, and as a result had a very successful high school running career. It was the best thing I could have done at the time.
The parallels between the way I felt then, and the way I felt while training this season were too much for me to ignore; especially with the final race of my season ending 1,000 meters short of the finish line. I flew up to Vancouver, Canada to run in the Harry Jerome invitational steeplechase, which I had been planning to use as an opportunity to qualify for the Olympic Trials. Five laps into the race I got flustered and started hyperventilating. I was overwhelmed with emotion, frustration, and anxiety, and almost started crying mid race. I stepped off the track, walked away from the stadium, and broke down. I’d put so much pressure on myself to achieve my goals that I’d lost sight of the reasons I’d set out to accomplish them in the first place. I’d convinced myself that somehow this failure would make me a fraud. My emotional state was simply not going to allow me to get the best performance from my body, and forcing these races was causing me resent the thing I love to do most. In that moment, I knew my season was over.
Much like when I stopped running when I was younger, I needed to take a step back in order to heal; this time that meant ending a season that had lost its meaning. I changed direction in the forest. The moment I accepted that it was over, I felt better immediately; as though a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. Of course I was (and am) disappointed how things played out this season, but I learned a lot about myself this year – that I am not, and nor will ever be, invincible. That there is only so much pressure I can put on myself before it becomes unhealthy. That I am still dealing with the emotional scars of my past.
The surgery in 2013 took a pretty big toll on me, both physically and emotionally. When I was sick, my desire to run again kept me going – it was my crutch. After surgery, returning to the sport helped me regain confidence and set me on the path to use my ability to help inspire those who needed it most – it was my compass. It was when I stopped appreciating the process that it became a crux. I owe a great
deal of my personal success and happiness to the lessons running has taught and continues to teach me. I don’t know where I’ll end up on my metaphorical forrest path (metaforestical path?) and I don’t what other challenges I’ll face along the way, but you better believe I’ll be running – compass in hand.
For now and always,
No Colon, Still Rollin’
For those of you curious about the GoFundMe Project, I am still working with my videographer Von Ware (of WareStudios) to come out with documentary style video to share my story. Although I did not run the Olympic Trials, I believe that sharing my experiences through the highs and lows can still motivate and inspire others to chase their passions – and make sure to enjoy the ability to do so. I will be posting a short video to give everyone a sneak peak soon, so stay tuned! 🙂
Instead of just writing about my training and current life, I think it’s important for me to share some stories from my past as it pertains to my experience with getting sick and having an ostomy. A lot of what I’ve posted so far has been pretty positive and upbeat, which is how i choose to approach difficult situations in my life. That being said, there have certainly been times where that was not the case. Today, I’m going to talk about when I first developed painful symptoms associated with Colitis.
When I was diagnosed in July of 2013, I had just come down from a month of training at altitude in Flagstaff, and was in very good shape. I had been running 80-100 miles a week and was, for the most part, feeling pretty good. I was going to the bathroom 6-8 times a day, seeing blood in about half of those visits, but didn’t realize the potential seriousness of the diagnoses I had been given. I wasn’t experiencing any pain, and had so far not seen any significant changes in my blood levels.
I did a small amount of research online about Colitis after my diagnosis, but was assuming that since I was such a healthy person that my experience with the disease would be fairly short-lived and easily controlled. I had 5 days at sea level where I got the sigmoidoscopy, and then I headed back to altitude in the Tahoe mountains for the annual 3 week training camp with the UC Berkeley team.
It was my final year as a Golden Bear, and I was coming off a disappointing track season. I was the captain of very promising young squad, and was ready to leave my mark on the program by leading the most successful team in the universities history…or at least that was the plan. When I got up to Tahoe, my symptoms began to evolve and become a problem.
The first week I was up there, things were close to normal. I was running well and enjoying every minute of my final team-camp experience. The only real difference was that I had to duck into the bushes to use the bathroom at least once a run – an annoyance, but honestly not that uncommon for any distance runner while adjusting to altitude. The second week however is when the pain started.
I remember waking up one night around 1am and running to the bathroom with some SERIOUS urgency. It was the first time I remember having a painful bathroom experience. When I woke up the next morning, I had a similar experience before heading out on our 7:30am run, but I kept it to myself and started the run with the team like usual. Less than a mile into the run however that sense of sudden and overwhelming urgency came on again, and there was no bathroom nearby. We were running around the small neighborhood town in Soda Springs where we rented our cabin, so I didn’t have the option to go into the trees or forrest yet. I stopped and told everyone else to continue on their way, that I would catch them in a few minutes. This was not the case. I walked the clenched straight legged walk Crohns and Colitis patients know well back to our cabin and burst into the bathroom with milliseconds to spare before an accident. I remember sitting on the cold porcelain toilet staring at the tacky wall paper thinking, “this is not good, I might really be in trouble here”.
I took the day off of running and spent my time researching more in depth about what I was dealing with. When the team got back, I told them I was having stomach issues, but didn’t feel the need to explain in more depth than that. At this point I was still thinking that I would be fine, but I’ll always remember that day as the one where doubt first crept into my mind.
The next two weeks at camp continued very much along the same path. I would be fine for a run one day, and the next unable to make it more than a couple minutes. I was changing my diet and keeping a record trying to figure out what it was that was causing all of these problems, but there was no real pattern that I could see. It’s a shame, because the time spent up at those summer training camps with the Cal teams are among my most cherished memories of college, but memories of Tahoe camp in 2013 will always be tainted as the starting point of the worst 2 years of my life.*
Looking back at the beginning stages of my Colitis up at camp, I don’t think my diet had a whole lot to do with the flare. I was under a tremendous amount of stress at the time. I was entering my final year of school, which meant I needed to be thinking about what I was going to be doing when I graduated (I had no idea). I was running 100 miles a week at 7,000 ft. elevation for the better part of 2 months to prepare for what I assumed would be my last chance to run in a Cal jersey. I was on a team full of freshmen and sophomores who were all looking to me to lead them in the right direction. Add in the fact that I had recently ended a 2-year relationship with my then-girlfriend and you’ve got a pretty strong stress-cocktail to make a bad Colitis flare even worse.
*I want to say that despite how frustrating and painful Colitis had been for me at the camp, it was STILL an incredible experience to have been up there; one that I wouldn’t trade for anything. It certainly softened the blow at the time to be surrounded by my best friends to finish off what was still an amazing summer
As an Ostomate-athlete, there are two questions that I get more than any others. “How do you stay hydrated?” and, “What do you eat?”. Before I dive in and answer these questions, I want all of my readers to know that I am not a nutritionist; these are meals and techniques for hydration that I’ve found work well for me and my body. I’ve done a lot of experimenting on my own to find what works for me, so I urge you to do the same! (ostomate or otherwise!)
Breakfast (part 1): Standard cup of joe in the morning. Peet’s Coffee, in case anyone was wondering. Not that I have any strong ties to a particular coffee, this one just happens to meet the 3 requirements I have of coffee: Its affordable ($6/bag), it tastes good enough to drink black, and has caffeine. Simple guy, simple needs. Of course, it is paired with my first liter of water, and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
I took about 30 mins to finish the coffee and water while responding to emails (some of which were requests for a post like this!) and then I was out the door on a 2 hour bike ride.
Bike Fuel/Hydration: While riding, or doing anything that is longer than 70 mins of non-stop activity for that matter, I always bring a some form of carbohydrate to help me keep going. Since hydrating is such an important facet of my diet, I opt to use a sports drink mix that both hydrates and provides fuel. I also bring a bottle full of water with just electrolytes in it.
Some important things to note about hydration:
- The large intestine is responsible for absorbing water from food that is passed through it. This accounts for up to 30% of your daily H20 intake. (Yeah, I cited Wikipedia. Take that high school english teacher!)
- The main electrolytes I look for are potassium, sodium, and magnesium. This site briefly explains how the small intestine absorbs water using these electrolytes, and thus why they are extra important to have when you’re covering a 30% H20 deficit.
- The average person should drink at least 2.5 liters of H20 per day. (Thanks Mayo Clinic)
The last bullet shows that it would make sense for the average ostomy patient to be getting at least 3.25 liters of H20 per day, which is a 30% increase from normal. Keep in mind that your kidneys need sodium and potassium in balance with the water that you drink in order to properly absorb the water into your body. I linked a dry but highly informative article from my alma mater that explains it in more detail. The bottom line is that if you are going to be drinking more water, the amount of electrolytes you drink must increase proportionally.
The last mention about hydration that I will put on here is that 3.25 liters is a baseline. If you are like me and sweat almost as profusely and often as you work out, you will want to be getting more hydrating fluids. I aim for 6 liters a day, 3/4s of which will have some amount of added electrolytes (usually the GU TABS, pictured above). Its best to drink fluids in small sips, constantly throughout the day. The gatorade bottle I use never leaves my side.
Breakfast (pt.2): So now I’ve finished my bike ride, I’m 2.5 liters of fluid in, and I’m hungry for something more substantial. Time to scramble.
- 4 small peppers (1/2 normal pepper)
- 1 cup chopped spinach
- 3 slices of deli ham
- 4 Eggs
- Little mozzarella cheese
I usually sauté the vegetables along with the ham in a small amount of olive oil to help with digestion. Cooked veggies digest easier in the small intestine and you won’t absorb their nutrients well when uncooked unless you chew like crazy.. and ain’t nobody got time for that. (Just kidding. Seriously, its really important to chew your food well if you don’t have a colon).
I threw in a couple pieces of whole grain toast with apricot preserves too. Im not even hungry and I want to eat this meal again.
(P.S. – normally I only use 2 eggs, and add in egg whites, but I ran out of them)
- Fish oil (3000mg)
- Multi Vitamin (Gummies)
- B-Complex (w/ vit C+Folic Acid)
- Slow Release Iron (45mg)
I take fish oil to help with bone and joint health, and because having the extra Omega-3’s are god for you. There are a TON of different things that fish oil are supposed to help with. Placebo may very well be the main benefit, and if so, it seems to be working fine for me!
The Multi Vitamin speaks for itself. Can’t hurt to be taking it, especially with less time for food to be digested without a colon. That and having it in Gummie form is delicious and reminds me to take the rest of my supplements, which are far less exciting.
The Iron and the B-complex are highly related to one anther because Vitamin B helps with the absorption of Iron and the prevention of anemia. I always take Iron in either liquid or slow release capsule form for maximal absorption, and alternate between 45mg and 90mg a day. I have a history of low ferritin levels – the protein that stores Iron – even before I was diagnosed with Colitis. You need ferritin to help your body increase your hemoglobin levels, which is the protein in your red blood cells that carry oxygen to your muscles. This article goes into far more depth explaining the role of Iron and hemoglobin levels in long distance running and why it is so important if you want to read more. The main point is that if you have low ferritin or hemoglobin, you’re probably going to feel tired and you should talk to your doctor about supplementing.
- Greek Yogurt (1 cup)
- Peanut Butter (1 TBs)
- Raspberry preserve (1 TBs)
- KIND Granola (1/2 Cup)
- Trail mix (1/4 cup)
- Mixed Berries (1/2 cup)
I eat Greek Yogurt daily because I was advised that having probiotics was good for gut health; I’m trying to keep my remaining guts as heathy as possible. The trail mix, which has almonds, cashews, peanuts, sunflower seeds, and an assortment of dried fruits tends to be the most difficult to digest, but as long as I take my time and chew it thoroughly, I haven’t had any issue. That being said, the only time I’ve ever had an issue with blockage was when I didn’t chew the trail mix enough. Just take the extra 5 seconds per bite to chew. It’s worth it.
I think it’s important to mention again that I have been constantly sipping water/GU throughout the day. By my mid afternoon snack, I am almost 4 liters and 3 GU tabs in.
After finishing my second workout for the day, which was 20 minutes of HIIT and core conditioning in the weight room, I made myself dinner! Probably my most simple meal of the day, I just cooked tortellini, added 1 big handful of spinach, added the sauce, and I was done! A lot of times I do eat meat at dinner time (Usually Chicken or
Fish), but since both the day of these meals and the day following it had so much cardio involved, I was making sure I could eat as much pasta as I could to get enough carbohydrates. I cooked the spinach slightly to make it more digestible.
I’m working on a more in depth ‘menu’ of EVERYTHING that I might eat throughout the day, along with any and all other suggestions I have, but for now, I hope this has been helpful! Please feel free to reach out if you have questions about any of what I’ve included. Also keep in mind that this is just what I’ve found works for me. Everyone’s body is different, so I urge you to try out different things until you find a system that works for you!
Wow, what a whirlwind the last couple months has been! It’s been a while since I posted here, and so much has been going on; I finally have a chance to update everyone and get back in the swing of things with an actual blog! I’ll be issuing out a more formal ‘thank you’ to everyone who helped share and spread the word about my GoFundMe project because you have all been amazing for sharing.. but I’m going to wait until the end of the campaign. For the time being, here’s an update from the last couple of months!
To start, I should mention that I rolled my ankle really badly on January 5th, and wasn’t able to start running again until a couple weeks ago. Two and a half months without running was tough, but I kept busy in other ways. Initially, I was aqua jogging in the pool for 60-90 mins five to six times per week. For those of you who don’t know what that is, I’d best describe it as a foam torture device used to test the resolve of injured runners in a pool. It looks like this: and allows you to run in the water with your head bobbing just above the surface… and I loathe it (more than the average runner too – due to the added annoyance of an ostomy). All you can do is stare straight ahead at the other end of a pool as you slog along back and forth, brooding over the frustration of the injury that put you there in the first place.
That being said, the time spent aqua jogging can actually be quite productive. Aside from doing a very good job at maintaining cardiovascular fitness, the time spent thinking about injury will almost always turn into some type of resolution to do a better job at preventing future injury. It’s one thing to remember the monotony of cross training, but another thing to actually be doing it. My aqua jog mantra quickly became, “I didn’t go through 2 years of colitis-induced suffering just to be sidelined again by weak ankles, just get through today”. Even so, after a month of this with no end in sight the lesson was learned but punishment continued.
Then, along came a new mechanism of cross training that changed my spiteful attitude: Cycling. My girlfriend’s dad generously offered to let me borrow this beaut while I was injured to help stay in shape.
Until a couple months ago, I’d never clipped into a bike, let alone gotten on the saddle of a bike of this caliber. What a game changer! After my first ride, I was hooked, going 30-50 miles a day through the hills east of Berkeley. I even rode 90 miles (averaging 20.5 mph) in a single ride a couple weeks ago with John Fulton’s cycling group [Thank you for having me FMRC!]. I used to look at cyclists like long-lost relatives of my distance running brethren who wear dorky helmets and diaper pants instead of short-shorts. Having spent the better part of the last month and a half sitting on a bike seat however, I can tell you two things: if you are a distance runner, you will probably fall smack in love with cycling and the dorky helmets if you try it… and those diaper pants are a godsend for those of us with boney butts – aka all distance runners.
Thankfully though, my ankle (and achilles) have healed and allowed me to start running again. The cross training actually did a fantastic job of keeping my fitness intact. Obviously its never ideal to get injured, but once I started on the bike I decided that if it were possible to come back to running MORE fit after cross training than when I started, I was going to make it happen. I don’t think I’d say i’m more fit as a result, but I’m close to where I left off, and I found a new passion to chase in the future! (I grew up surfing in SD, and am a solid swimmer.. the triathlon is starting to sound more and more appealing 😛 ).
But now, its back to the grindstone. I’m in the full swing of training again, and planning on testing the waters in a low-key 2 mile race early next month. I’m going to begin filming for the short documentary series soon, and I’m working diligently on my newly formed company, Hurdle Barriers LLC, to find the best way to serve the ostomy community. There are lots of big things on the horizon, I can’t wait to share it with you all! But for now, and as always:
no colon, still rollin’
Hey readers! As I’m sure most of you have seen (since the only way to access this site is through my social media accounts), I am raising money to hire a videographer to document what it’s like to train for the olympic trials with an ostomy bag. I am extremely passionate about both running, and spreading awareness of life after ostomy surgery! ANY amount will help me to hire the best videographer possible… and if you don’t have money to give, a simple share on your prefered social media platform will go a long way. This is all about promoting the idea that having an ostomy is nothing to be ashamed of. Rather, it is another chance at the amazing life that is waiting for us… We just have to reach out and seize it!!
GO FUND ME LINK (click here to see the gofund me page to learn more!)
Twas a cool morning on the shores of the San Fransisco bay. The weather shifted between fog and rain so fluidly, it was difficult to tell which to call it. A group of about 40 runners and walkers gathered around under the awning of the Sports Basement adjacent to Presidio park, but despite the dreary conditions of this January morning, positive vibes permeated the air. This crowd was getting ready to run or walk across the Golden Gate bridge to raise money to help find a cure for crohn’s and colitis.
I was asked by the event coordinator to come say a few words and be the guest of honor at the event. I was thrilled to have this opportunity, but I’ve never done any formal public speaking, so naturally I was a little nervous. It’s one thing to have close friends or family tell you how inspiring you are(thanks mom!), but another to be faced with a crowd that all had some degree, either directly or by association, of experience with the illness that has so drastically changed my life. Somehow, speaking to a group with this level of insight felt more unnerving.
Thankfully, after an anxious 30 minute commute, I was greeted by this group of happy runners and walkers and all of my anxiety vanished! Once everyone had socialized for a bit, I spoke for about 2 minutes to everyone about why the event meant so much to me personally, and how thankful I was to see so many people showing their support on this less-than-ideal day for running.
Many of the runners and walkers that took part in the group were a part of the Team Challenge training group, which raises money for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation through half marathon and triathlon training. I love the idea of the Team Challenge training group because it raises money for a great cause AND helps those who are raising the money achieve their fitness goals. Combining healthy lifestyle choices with helping others regain their health is win-win in my book, and in fact a large source of inspiration for what I hope to achieve in the future.
After I had finished speaking and we took a group photo, we all set out across San Francisco’s iconic bridge to complete the 10 kilometers of running or walking that had brought us there that morning. Despite the cold, rain, and wind, running across the Golden Gate Bridge for the first time on Saturday is an experience I will cherish. Thank you for having me, Team Challenge!
If you are interested in joining Team Challenge to raise money for a Crohns or Colitis cure, you can find information on the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America website, here:
Every now and then I like to look back at this piece I wrote for a forum of support for people with Crohn’s or Colitis called IHaveUC.com. It was written when things were at their worst – about a week before I had surgery. It feels appropriate to share today, nearly 2 years later; especially because of how prophetic some parts feel to read (and because I quoted Joe Dirt).
Happy New Years everyone!
In 2012, I was 20 years old. I was in my junior year of College at UC Berkeley, running on a full ride scholarship for the cross-country and track and field teams. I ran personal bests in every event that I ran, and was as healthy as could be. In fact, things were going so well that I travelled to Europe to run in competitive races throughout the summer. It’s 2014 now though, and I just turned in paperwork for a medical leave of absence from my final semester at school due to severe Ulcerative Colitis.
Around February of 2013, I started noticing things in my body were not right. They were minor, but I’ve spent a majority of my life being well in-tune with the way I am feeling, and I could tell something was off. I was still running at this time, and actually quite well, but I couldn’t help but feel there was something holding me back, like a tire on a bike that wouldn’t stay fully pumped. It was around that time that I started seeing blood in my stool (gross, I know).
There were no other symptoms, and the doctors told me that I had hemorrhoids; no big deal. I kept running. But after a couple months without change, I started to have more issues. The frequency in which I had to use the restroom increased, and my body continuously felt more and more out of whack; that tire had to be refilled more and more often. As a response, I trained harder and ran further. It was the only way to maintain the improvement that I’d seen the year before, or so I thought.
My season ended in a pretty lack luster fashion. I failed to make the NCAA national meet, and I went home disappointed asking myself ‘what had happened to the Collin from 2012’? After some time, I started the long process of summer training, a ritual any distance runner knows well. I slowly regained confidence and fitness as the summer progressed, but my symptoms remained and I needed to find out why.
“According to web MD, hemorrhoids don’t last this long”, whispered my inner hypochondriac, “But Cancer does”. This stint of online research, along with some very strong urges from my parents, led me to go to the doctors to get checked out. Thankfully, after a sigmoidoscopy (the colonoscopy’s tame little brother), I found that I did not have cancer. Instead however, I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. After a second bout of online research to figure out what Colitis was, I was pleasantly surprised with what I found, given the circumstances. I was nowhere near as bad as the testimonials I read online. Pain? That wasn’t happening. I was still running – and running a lot! I thought I’d be able to knock this thing out no problem, and even better, I’d finally found an answer to why I’d been feeling off; that deflated tire would finally get patched!
This however, is not the way my Colitis story goes. Within a few weeks of my diagnosis, the pain started. I was put on some anti-inflammatory drugs, and given a ‘low residue’ diet plan to follow, but the pain persisted. Over the course of the next few months (September through November), all of the UC symptoms started to appear, and my pain became more and more of an issue. This of course, meant that my running was taking a serious downturn, eventually to the point where I was unable to run at all.
The relationship a competitive runner has with running is extremely unique. On one hand, it is a huge source of stress. Competing and training at high levels, with exceedingly high expectations make it difficult to handle at times. But at the same time, running is the ultimate stress relief. It is an outlet we use to unwind, relax, or let go. Its funny how one day a bad workout can put you in a terrible mood, but an easy run the next can put you totally at ease. Personally, I’ve found that running has always been more of a release for my worries. It’s not to say that it doesn’t stress me out at times, but for the most part running has always been my therapist, my answer to difficult questions, my go-to in times of trouble. The reason I’m saying this is because since Thanksgiving, I haven’t been able to run at all. Suddenly this balancing force in my life has been taken away from me.
I can say with certainty that the last 3 months have been the worst days in my life. Each day I am in seemingly more and more pain, and my body is slowly withering away. I have gone from 160 pounds to 140, and can barely walk to my classes. I sleep less than 5 hours a night due to pain, and worst of all, I can’t talk to my therapist, running. It has all been quite depressing to say the least. For weeks I wouldn’t leave my bed, partly because I couldn’t, and partly because I wouldn’t. Up until a couple days ago, I wasn’t sure I’d make it. But I’m not here to write a sob story, and I’m certainly not fishing for any sympathy (although hey, I’m not going to turn it down either). What I am here to say is that in the last couple days, I realized what this experience means to me.
My favorite professor here at Cal told our class that, “Only challenge produces opportunity for greatness”. I believe that until this diagnosis, that I have never truly been challenged. Much of what I consider to have been challenges in my life were somewhat artificial, in that I made them out to seem much bigger than they actually were so that I had obstacles to climb. I needed to fabricate challenge in my life to push myself, but that didn’t prepare me for when a real one came along. Now, I am presented with a real challenge, one that so far has beaten me into submission. But I realize that I need to seize this opportunity and recognize its potential greatness.
In less than a month, I will undergo a series of surgeries to have my large intestine removed. For a time, I will have an ileostomy bag hanging from my side for my poo. I will not be a happy camper. But thankfully, I am going into it all with a new perspective: when I am healthy again, I will have grown to be a much stronger person, and in particular, one who can really appreciate what he has. My entire life has been an absolute dream; it just took a little reality check to make me see that. From this cave that I’m in, I look back on my past, and it brings me to tears thinking about how wonderfully fantastic everything has been. My friends, my family, my home, running… you name it. And it brings me an indescribable amount of joy to know that I still have those things, even if I can’t do them all right now.
So I guess what I’m getting at is that this terrible disease has given me the ability to truly see what I have. Colitis may have taken away some things, but it isn’t permanent, and this knowledge combined with my new ability to appreciate all of the other amazing things that I have going for me is my greatness. It is a veil being lifted, and as I move on with my life I will be able to see all that I have with so much more clarity; And even though I’m in a pretty spectacular amount of pain right now, I’ve never been happier. (Norco might be helping with that too 😉 )
To all the other UCer’s out there: don’t lose sight of what you have, and in the legendary words of Joe Dirt, “Keep on, Keepin’ on”.
The last week of my life has been quite busy, so for this blog post I’m going to start with a bad news/good news scenario, and then delve into some other things that have been going on.
THE BAD NEWS: long story short – I missed the sign up for club xc nationals which was held in San Francisco this past Saturday and couldn’t manage to get entered late. It was disappointing to miss this race, since I feel that I’m ready to run pretty fast right now and the field was essentially a who’s-who of distance running. Running in a race full of the people at the top of the game would have been a great experience, but there is no use in crying over spilled milk. I goofed up and have to live with the consequences of that mistake…which leads me to –
THE GOOD NEWS: I ran the Walnut Creek Half Marathon as a workout in place of club nationals, and ended up winning my first half marathon! Now, I know that most of the people who would have been serious competition for the race were running the club nationals race, but once I had learned there was no way I was getting entered into the race, my coach and I decided that it would be best to just do a hard workout rather than a full race effort. The low key race was perfect opportunity to do it!
QUICK RECAP: The race started, and I ran in 2nd place for the first 4 miles, averaging around 5:37 pace according to my GPS watch. I kept the same average until mile 6, but due to the monstrous hill that lasted from 4 to 6 miles, the effort increased dramatically and I found myself in the lead by a considerable amount. After taking the steep downhill in 4:45 to mile 7, I started my tempo run and averaged around 5:10 mile pace to finish up the race. Despite going the wrong way for about 20 seconds and having to turn around to get back on course, I ran 1:11:00 (my watch had around 69:56 for 13.1). Given the size of the hill, and how controlled and relaxed the effort was overall, I was very pleased with the day!
The good news doesn’t end with the half marathon however. As of very recently, I started working towards creating a company with a couple of (for the time being, anonymous) investors that share my interest in starting a company to help people return to – or start – living an active lifestyle after major surgery or medical hardships. There are an enormous amount of potential directions this could take me, and because of how uncertain everything is at this point.. thats all I can say about it for now!
Aside from it being an amazing opportunity for me to make a career out of my newly found passion for helping people get through life changing surgery, it also allows me to dedicate more time and energy into my other passion, running! Starting in January, I will no longer be training around a structured 35 hours a week of work, but instead will be devoting my time to building a company, and running as fast as possible – and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect.
As some of my more track-savy readers may have seen, the new (and slightly slower) Olympic standards for Rio 2016 were released last week. The one in particular that is of interest to me was, of course, the 3k steeplechase. The time to hit: 8:30. When I read that this new standard, I was immediately lost in a flurry of daydreams. While 8:30 is quite fast for a steeple and my best steeple time since returning after my surgery is a mere 9:04, the time feels like a time I am capable of running this year (given of course, I set my goals in the right way). Training to get to the Olympic Trials is still the primary goal, but the possibility of running fast enough to make it beyond that point is incredibly motivating.
The Olympic dream is a far-fetched one for anyone who sets their sights there, but three people in the steeplechase are going to realize that dream next year, so I say: why not me ? To my knowledge, there isn’t some omnipotent track lord who decides who those three will be; it’s decided by who is talented, lucky, and driven enough to make it happen.
Training is on an upswing, and indoor track season is around the corner. I’m in the midst of starting a company, and have enough funding to train (almost) entirely unencumbered of financial worries. It’s funny, but whether things are going terribly or things are going great, the good or the bad tend to come all at once; I’m either climbing or falling. In 2013 and 2014 I was falling, but 2015 so far has been great, and 2016 is gearing up to be absolutely incredible; and I can’t wait to see where I can climb.