Here goes nothing…

Let me air something really personal to me that I feel the need to share, discuss & hopefully help someone along the way that is experiencing the same problems I am…. disclaimer: this is a pretty personal post.


For those of you that know me…

– I find happiness in fitness, I may even consider it my “drug”

– I eat clean 90% of the time, cheat 10% of the time

– Every day I strive to be better than the last

– I set goals and I try my best every damn day to reach those goals

I NEVER GIVE UP.

For those of you that may or may not know, I have been experiencing struggles with my health for the past 2 years, and more prominently during the past 8 months. Things have not been right since I graduated college in 2012. Things have not been “normal” & I haven’t felt like myself, on both the inside & outside. I am by no means a superficial person, but I find comfort when how I feel on the inside reflects how I look on the out & when how I look on the outside reflects how I feel on the inside.

In 2012 I chose to take myself off of the birth control pill, I didn’t like how it made me feel or act. I was the thinnest I had ever been & felt great on the outside. But, I was affected by it in ways that were not fair to myself or the people in my life. I was also trying to take a more natural approach to things and completely rid myself of unnecessary hormones in my body. Well, didn’t that backfire….

I did not have a menstrual cycle for 8 months after that. Sounds great, right? No. I didn’t think much of it right away considering I took myself off of the pill. Hormones are bound to be funky and take time to readjust. I knew something was up though when it hit 6 months of no period. This just doesn’t feel right.  I also knew that not getting a period for that long is unhealthy and can lead to serious problems down the road. I went to go see my mom’s OBGYN to get things straightened out. Long story short, I tried starting on one round of straight estrogen for 10 days to get things going, that failed. I did a second round of the same regiment – success! I then started back with taking a birth control pill (against my will).

Fast forward just a few months later, I go to put on a pair of pants for work that just fit me a month ago… they didn’t fit. Ya, I had been commuting to and from Boston and sitting for longer periods of time than I EVER did in college, but I had not changed my commitment to exercise or eating healthy. What. The. Hell. My natural response.. cry, scream, give up.

I chose to not completely give up, right around this realization that none of my pants fit, I moved into the city. The second I moved into the city, I joined a gym & instantly had so much more time for LIFE. I was able to exercise after work, prepare all of my meals & enjoy walking around the city. My stress level significantly decreased & I was happy. I was determined to get back into those pants. I knew I could get “back on track”.

Things still weren’t normal. I couldn’t seem to regulate & I couldn’t seem to get that weight off. I noticed a flare up in my acne (I had really bad acne early in college & after much trial and error I figured out a regiment that worked!) & I felt “dense” on the inside.  I knew I needed to take action, something was wrong.

Countless PCP visits, countless OBGYN visits – they all told me I was stressed, that I was adjusting to a new lifestyle post grad, I was overwhelmed with work & that my schedule was a lot with starting grad school. And you know what I heard? All I heard was NOTHING. They were not taking my problems seriously & they blamed my missed periods, weight gain & acne flare ups on stress.

I wanted to give up. But, I didn’t give up, I couldn’t give up. I knew something was wrong. I’m very aware of my own body & I knew something just wasn’t right.

I googled. I searched all of my symptoms high and low. I did research in medical journals. I talked to the endocrinologists that I worked with. I honestly became obsessed with figuring out WHY I was gaining weight, missing periods & just not feeling “right”. I came to the conclusion on my OWN that I had Polycystic Ovarian Syndrom (PCOS). I knew that all of my symptoms were exactly what they were talking about.  I reached out to one particular endocrinologist that I work with who works at the hospital across the street. She had a recommendation that I be seen in the PCOS clinic at this hospital. Thankfully, she passed my name along to this particular provider & I got right in to see her within a few weeks. (Working in healthcare does have it’s perks!!)

“There is no real one test to diagnose PCOS” is what my MD told me. I described all my symptoms & told her my story over the past two years. She then laid out a road map for me of all the tests I would need to have done. We needed to eliminate all of these other possible health issues before we could diagnose PCOS. I cried in her office out of pure frustration. I just wanted to fix all of this… now.

Countless blood tests, ultrasounds & other miscellaneous tests later… I had whacked hormone levels & was diagnosed with a POSSIBLE case of PCOS. After all of those tests came back, she needed to start my menstrual cycle and get my hormone levels up to where they should be. I would see her in 4 months. So, I wait and the mystery continued for 4 more months….

Here we are, 4 months later, another round of blood work and glucose intolerance tests completed. I now have an official diagnosis of PCOS. This is a fresh diagnosis to me as I was just told this a few days ago. I haven’t shared this with many people & I am not sure how I feel about it. I thought I was OK with it, until I started doing more research… it’s hard to have kids, it’s hard to lose weight, I am at a higher risk of developing diabetes… the list goes on.

One particular risk of having PCOS has already impacted me… I have high cholesterol. At 24, a girl who hits the gym 6 days a week, runs half marathons, eats super healthy…  has high cholesterol. I was devastated. How could this be?

There are a few ways I can handle this:

A. Crash & burn, give up, cry, forget even trying

B. Remain status quo, keep doing what I’m doing and hope for the best

C. Kick it into high gear, see a nutritionist & get back to my personal trainer

What option do I choose? Option C. I am going to start seeing a nutritionist to make sure I am eating to control my high cholesterol and I recently purchased a personal training package to focus more on weight training over the winter. This, of course, is for two purposes… help to build muscle, to build my metabolism & hopefully lose weight AND to build strength over the winter months before I start training for my next running adventure next fall (maybe for a full marathon, details to follow!).

In the meantime, I am trying to understand my diagnosis, research for PCOS “blogs” and see what other individuals with PCOS have experienced & more importantly…stay positive. This isn’t the end of the world, this is just a speed bump that will slow some things down and make a few other things in my life complicated. This isn’t death and this is by no means the worst thing that could happen to me. It is frustrating and it is disheartening, but it will be OK.

I will continue to run. I will continue to workout. I will continue to eat healthy. I won’t give up.

I know this isn’t my typical post nor is this completely relevant to “eat clean, train dirty” … but it is relevant to my life right now and it will significantly change how I approach nutrition and exercise moving forward…

Thanks for listening.

xo. P

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First Half Marathon… check!

The only thing holding you back is self-doubt.

To the young girl holding that sign along the race route yesterday, thank you. You made a difference in my success yesterday.

Running is all mental. It is a constant battle between your head and your muscle fatigue. Is it my body that hurts? Or is it my mind that is telling me to give up? What is stopping you from pushing yourself? That was the hardest part for me yesterday… was it the pain in my IT bands that was making me want to give up or was it self-doubt? Needless to say, I didn’t give up & I ran every step along that 13.1 mile race route with determination, perseverance and pride. A day later and I am still on a runners high in complete disbelief that I actually ran a half marathon!!!

Standing at the start line you could just feel the anxiety in the crowd. It is hard to explain how it feels in that moment. The nerves are extreme, you are jumping around to stay warm & all you want to do is start. Thankfully I had these fit ladies to jump around, be nervous with & make sure we all started together! We were all each other’s encouragement at the start line & I will forever be grateful for that. Starting a race with 4,500 other runners is VERY difficult. You are trying to move but someone is in your way at all times. Your first mile is your slowest mile, always. I tried my best to not let that get in my head as my Nike+ app told me my average pace after mile one was 12 minutes/mile. I had to not acknowledge that and push through, I knew I would catch up to myself after the first mile. And, I did.

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The first 4 miles of the race were a loop. It was a tight loop so the roads were very crowded. My IT band on my right knee started to tense up which made me doubt my abilities to actually complete this race. At this point, it was all mind over matter. I knew that if I kept pushing through, I could make it. Putting my pain out of my mind, I zoned in on my music. Just as I was zoning in on my music and the rhythm on my breath, I spotted my mom, dad & all of my best friends along the side of the road at about mile 4.5. With a few cheers and a big thumbs up, I regained a sense of power that let me keep going!

Looking to my right was the Atlantic Ocean at Hampton Beach. If you ran close enough to the side-walk, the ocean would splash up over the barrier and onto you, which felt so good. The cool salt water was a little treat and a reminder of where I was, what I was doing & why I was doing it… because at one point, I was questioning my sanity!

Just a mile 6 I spotted my brother, sister-in-law and a few more friends. I was so lucky to have them there cheering for me with a big sign! Seeing them jump up and down  yelling for me gave me another burst of energy. I knew I could do this, I was just about half way done….

The most difficult part of the race was mile 7 to mile 11. We entered into a rural part of Hampton, NH. The streets were not lined with many people, and it was a complete mind game at this point. I zoned in on one other runner to pace myself with. We were together for most of those miles. He kept me going & I think I kept him going, too. It is an unspoken bond that you create with other runners out there on the course. If your paces match, you run together. It may be one of my favorite parts of running a race, the people you “meet” along the way. I’m not sure when I lost him or when he lost me & I’m not sure who finished first, but that doesn’t matter. All that matters is that we kept each other motivated in an unspoken way for the hardest part of the race. Thank you, stranger. You kept me running.

I was looking forward to mile 11 because I knew I would see my brother, sister-in-law & friends again! Just as I spotted them I made sure to move over to that side of the road to give them a smile and thank them for coming! Just as I did that, my brother jumped into the road with me and snapped a selfie with me!! It made me laugh & totally pumped me up to finish the race. I absolutely loved that he was so excited for me and motivated me just when I needed him the most. I think this goes down as my favorite picture of all time…

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That burst of motivation I got a mile 11 faded quickly. My body was really starting to hurt, and I wanted to stop running. My pace was slowing down and I was starting to give up. I kept telling myself that I only had two more miles… only TWO more miles out of 13.1 miles. That’s nothing in retrospect, right? Wrong. Those last two miles are the most taxing miles. You are mentally exhausted because you had to push yourself through most of the race and you are slowly losing steam. Your body is starting to hurt in place that it hasn’t hurt before. You are ready to give up.

No. Don’t give up, you only have two miles left. You have great parents and friends waiting for you at the finish line. Do not give up.

I kept switching the song on my iPhone because I couldn’t find the right song to get me going. I was losing all steam, and couldn’t settle into the movement of my legs or my breath.

Hi, mile 12. Let’s do it. Just as I saw the mile 12 sign, I tried my best to kick it into gear. I moved as fast as my legs would let me and I stopped playing with my music. I stared straight ahead as I moved along. People were walking all around me, exhausted & giving up. I would not let that be me. I will push through to the end of this race. Just as I spotted the finish line, I sprinted. I let my legs move as fast as they could and pushed through. I sprinted across that finish line into a sea of people finishing the half marathon in 2 hours and 13 minutes.  It was slower than I wanted, but I am still extremely thrilled with my time!! Right as I crossed, I spotted my friend Kristen that I ran it with & then I spotted my family and best friends. Seeing them at the finish line was just was I needed, even if I did feel like my head was spinning.

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After a bottle of water, a banana and a granola bar I felt like a human again. I “woke up” and hugged all my friends & my parents. I couldn’t believe what I had accomplished. It is still surreal to me today.

I cannot thank my family & friends for coming out to cheer me on yesterday. Having them come out and show their support means SO much to me, I cannot even put it into words. They have all been there for me through the training process and have supported me along the way. I feel so lucky to have such amazing family and friends.

The best part? The beer. It had been over a month since I had any sip of alcohol!! Cheers!

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I can see myself training for a full marathon one day…. one day.

For now, next up: Trick or Trot 5k to close out the Dover Race Series, Chilly Half Marathon, Fenway Spartan Sprint.  Until then… rest, water, sleep & beer… plenty of beer.

xo. P

Beer me.

I haven’t had one sip of alcohol since August 30th. Crazy? Ya. I am a huge fan of a nice cold craft beer. The last time I had a beer was right after I finished the 10-mile race in August. It was a Moat Mountain IPA & I was sitting in North Conway on the Saco River. It was picture perfect.

Training is frustrating. You have great runs, you have horrible runs. One day you will run 10 miles and feel awesome, a few days later you will run 3 miles and it will feel horrible. Running is completely unpredictable. You are unsure how your legs are going to feel, how your breathing will feel & if you are in the correct mental state to go for a run. Despite the fact that I find running to be a type of therapy for me, it is still a cause of frustration when I do not have a good run.

I actually found that most of my “bad” runs occurred after a night of drinking alcohol. I have never been one to binge drink often, nor have I been one to pop open a beer on a weeknight with dinner. But, when I did have a few drinks & when I did decide to run a day after drinking… my run was NOT good. I would feel sluggish and slow.

After my 10-mile race in August, I knew my training schedule was going to pick up. I knew I was going to have early Saturday morning runs & I knew I needed to be at my best for those runs. So, I decided to stop drinking all together. My Saturday morning runs were awesome. I rarely had a bad run. It was so rewarding when I finished that run and it felt GOOD!

Thankfully, my half marathon is the Smuttynose Half Marathon so there will be a beer tent at the end of the race!! All I have to say is that a Pumpkin Smuttynose beer is calling my name…

Would you ever consider “giving up” alcohol for a period of time?

xo. P

Massage…. please!

“Rabbit rabbit!” were the first two words that came out of my mouth this morning when I woke up. I am in need of a lot of luck this month! Specifically, I need all sorts of good vibes coming my way in just a few days. Ever since I signed up for this race almost a year ago, I knew October 2014 would roll around and I would be nervous, excited, anxious, apprehensive & really any emotion you can possibly think of. Well, here we are… October 2014, and I was right. I feel all of those emotions and more. Never in my life have I worked so hard for a fitness goal & given up so much to make sure that I don’t only achieve that goal, I DOMINATE that goal.

In order to get ready for my race I decided to treat myself and get a deep tissue sports massage today! I am still experiencing pain in both of my IT bands & quads. This is leading to even more anxiety and stress just thinking I won’t be able to cross that finish line (for those of you who don’t know, running races is 100% mental strength). I just knew I needed a way to help myself both physically but most importantly mentally.

“I’ll know once I get my hands on you” was the way our conversation started. Um, OK? Instant second hand awkwardness came my way. Michael specializes in sports massages. I was so excited to see him, tell him my ailments & let him work his magic. I have to admit, being a young female & having a male work on you started off slightly uncomfortable. I had a hard time relaxing. Well, I did not have a choice for very long as I was forced to relax as he pushed into every nook and cranny in my lower back, bum, and legs. It was that “hurt so good” feeling. He talked me through all of my pains & why I may be experiencing certain pains in different areas of my body.

This massage was not only a relief for my body, it was a relief for my mind. Knowing that he was able to work some magic on my tight muscles instantly put me at ease. I left there with a clear mind knowing that I took one more step towards helping myself cross that finish line.

PLEASE send good running vibes my way. I’ll be giving my legs a nightly pep talk from now until October 5th. Until then, I’ll be soaking in Epsom salt baths, heating my legs, popping Aleve & drinking water like it’s a pumpkin beer.

xo. P