My heart pounded in my throat, and my lungs burned desperate for oxygen. Sweat trickled down the back of my neck. Legs were heavy, knees throbbed, and back ached.
I might actually die, I thought. How long had I been doing this? Forty minutes?
My watch showed 6:33. I’d been running for six f*cking minutes.
That’s how my first run in over three months started.
A mile into it, however, my body remembered, my heart rate regulated. Although it hit 197 and that felt a tad high, I paid little mind to such insignificant details. I was running.
And running is f*cking amazing. 🏃♀️❤️🙌🏼
Best three miles of my forties. Antarctica shmantarctica.
While on the epic jaunt, I came across a massive construction project that spanned the better part of half a mile. It must have started while I was hurt.
New buildings and structures littered the once serene view. The wild grass, brush, and vast greenery (or brownery in the summertime) were gone.
The foothills were blotted out and NASA’s folded dome that I had come to think of as almost home when returning from a long run was indistinct.
What once was the only standing structure in my view had become an impotent and dusty half nickel squeezed out by the shiny titanic-sized scaffolding.
In the photo (above), I can’t tell if when the construction is completed, I’ll lose NASA’s dome altogether.
But this is what progress is: change.
I’m grateful for the progress my body and soul have made in the past few months going from not being able to walk to being in a stupid boot to running.
These new buildings represented someone else’s progress, I guess. Maybe this is how I know I’ve moved into a new chapter of my life. I resent someone else’s progress. 👵🏼
Especially, when progress destroyed the view and eliminated the oxygen-creating trees and plants along the running trail. They better install green rooftops on those massive steel dinosaurs, or I’ll write a letter. 😀
Onward. But first, I need a nap.
It’s only been a week, and I’m so over this vegan diet. Finding acceptable food has been difficult and time-consuming and annoying. I’ve also seemed to forget how to operate my hands, feet, head, and body to my own detriment. It’s been a miserable and bloody week.
We camped in Big Sur last weekend. My heart goes out to anyone who has had to find something non-animal-based to eat over a campfire. Even friggin marshmallows have animal products in them. If you don’t know what I’m talking about and like marshmallows, don’t look it up. Gelatin is pure nastiness.
While my friends enjoyed copious amounts of processed meats and a delectable selection of artisan cheeses for happy hour, I reluctantly chomped on sugar snap peas and hummus. For dinner, they indulged in sausages, feta cheese, chicken, pizza (with cheese and sausage), and more sausages. I ate an ear of corn and sweet potato. I mean, shit.
To be clear, I take full responsibility of the crappy planning. I’d been on a plant-based diet for only a couple of days and had absolutely no business trying to camp on said diet. But life happens. It’s too easy to put something off because it’s inconvenient to begin. If I did that, I’d never start. Life is inconvenient most of the time.
Camping was happening. So was going plant-based. It was unfortunate that they coincided, but it gave me the chance to see what it would be like camping newly vegan-style. And it sucked.
Not only was I not able to have s’mores over the campfire every night, my adjusted vegan meal usually consisted of simply removing the meat and cheese from the meal, so I was left with a couple of warm vegetables and some pasta. Never again will I go camping so unprepared. No – never again will I go camping on a vegan diet.
Switching gears to a meal I really enjoyed: breakfast. I stumbled on these single-serve instant hot cereal cups, and on a whim picked up a couple of them. Angels must have been with me because they were delicious! 👼🏼
They’re organic and contain multigrain oats, chia and dried berries. All I needed to do was add hot water and bam! instant breakfast goodness. They’re also reasonably priced at a dollar and some change per cup at Whole Foods. I added nuts, seeds, and dried cranberries (vegan trail mix), and it was a perfect camping meal.
I also enjoyed the snacks I brought – dried mangos, dates, walnuts, and homemade granola. Side note about going vegan, the amount of fiber that is added to your diet overnight will clean a body out. Go easy on the dried fruits, girl.
My first week on a plant-based diet has also been the clumsiest week of my life. And that’s saying something for someone who has had two hundred stitches put in and taken out of her body, excluding the hernia stitches. (They just kept those in.)
Last week, I burned, cut (thrice), scraped, banged, gnashed, stubbed, knocked, hit, twisted, and poked various different parts of my body. Half of it included bloodshed. I have new scars, bruises and swelling throughout my body from injuries I’ve sustained while on this diet. Can someone tell me why? What’s happening to me?
Not only has my own body taken a hit, I’ve done really clumsy things. Before leaving for camping, I spilled almost an entire bag of popcorn seed while transferring them from one container to another. What felt like hundreds of thousands of them poured on to the counter, floor, sink, stovetop, and God knows where else. It sounded like I hit the jackpot on the slot machine. Ring, ting, ting, tingle, dingle, ling. When all the chaos was over and the last kernel it the floor, it looked like my kitchen got the chickenpox. Oy vey.
The lack of food options while camping, the injuries I’ve sustained, the injuries I’ve caused (mostly to my kitchen and myself), and my bad attitude have all contributed to an awful week one on the plant-based diet. Plus, my face broke out for no apparent reason. Finally, my achilles is exactly the same, if not more achy and sore than it was last week. 😕
Five more weeks to go.
It’s been a couple of months since returning from Antarctica and almost four months since the injury to my achilles happened.
The pain has moved around, from my achilles to my arch to my hamstring and back to my achilles again. It’s like playing whack a mole with the pain.
On Monday, the PT told me she is going to start treating the achilles problem like a chronic issue instead of an acute injury. My heart sank. I don’t want to be labeled chronically anything, except happy, rich, or spiritual.
Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” And I say, hell yeah to that. If rest, icing, taping, massaging, and physical therapy aren’t working, could it be something in my diet?
It’s been five years since I started eating meat again. I’d been vegetarian for the previous seven years. In 2014, I was diagnosed with severe anemia and when iron supplements didn’t remedy the problem, doctors encouraged me to eat meat.
Looking back, I’m not sure that was the best thing for my health, but doctors strongly recommended it and I didn’t want to stay anemic and tired.
After learning more about iron intake and requirements, I feel like I could have found another path to health, but I chose the easiest, fastest, and most convenient. And, in a few months, the blood tests indicated that it worked.
So imagine my surprise in 2018, after four years of eating meat, a routine blood test showed I was anemic. Again.
Instead of reexamining my diet at that time, I added an iron supplement and forgot about it. Maybe eating animals and animal products had become too convenient and ingrained my life for me to think there was another option. Going back to vegetarianism didn’t even cross my mind.
Fast-forward to Feb 2019 when my injury happened. I’ve not thought of changing my diet as a way to heal myself, but after four months of nursing a lagging injury, it came like a rocket during a meditation session in the form of a question. What are you eating?
The answer to the question was a little embarrassing. In February, I had just come off the bulletproof diet and was recovering from a terrible reaction to the flu shot. I had been back running only for a week or two when I was injured. (The bulletproof diet encourages copious amounts of grass-fed cow butter in your coffee along with meats and veggies, oils, and proteins.)
When I look back at my food log, I’d been eating various forms of meat, including processed (but paleo) bacon, sausage and lunchmeat, butter, yogurt, and cheese two or three times a day. I’m not saying this is what caused the injury, but the correlation is interesting.
Previous to bulletproof, I did the Whole30 diet time and time again, which focused exclusively on consuming copious amounts of meat, fish, eggs, fruits, and vegetables.
I lost weight, and after two weeks of suffering through terrible grumpiness and sugar cravings, settled into it. But could it have been hurting me?
I don’t know, but I’m going to run my own little experiment. For six weeks, I’m going on a plant-based diet.
My goal is to see if this diet will help heal my chronic achilles/foot/leg injury. I’d also love a little more energy (and happiness) throughout the day, but I’m not going to get pushy.
Let’s see what happens next.
It’s been four months since I first injured my achilles. A full recovery has eluded me, but I’m committed to coming back to long distance running.
At the time of injury – back in February – there were four weeks left before the race in Antarctica. I went to a physical therapist because after resting and icing it for two weeks straight, it was still hurting and I was worried I might have partially torn it.
The PT did a few stress tests and decided I had not torn it. He was explicit in his instructions. Continue to ice and rest it for a few more days, then start stretches and some heel lifts to strengthen it. Come race day, if it started to hurt, which it probably would, it was okay if I pushed through it. I couldn’t hurt it any worse.
Got it. Okay, thanks, PT. So, I did as instructed. I rested it. I iced it. I stretched it. I did heel lifts.
When race day came, I ran through the pain knowing I couldn’t hurt it any worse. All in all, I don’t think I did. Of course, it was really sore after the race and throbbed during, but the pain in the following days wasn’t any worse than the days that followed the initial injury.
When I got back home in late March, I rested some more and resumed with the prescribed therapy: stretching, ice, rest, and heel lifts. My achilles was feeling a little better, but not back to normal. I tried running a couple of easy miles on it at the beginning of April, but it ached during and after again. I took another two weeks off.
In the middle of April, I did a six-mile slow and relatively easy hike and it was just as painful as if I ran on it. So I rested it, I iced it, I stretched it and took another two weeks off. I also called the PT and asked for help on expediting the healing. He prescribed more exercises.
I did more exercises and the pain and soreness increased over the following two weeks. Finally, on May 5, almost three months after the original injury, I went to a new physical therapist.
After listening to the history of the injury, she did a few strength, flexibility, and balance tests. Then she spent twenty minutes digging into my leg and foot to feel out the inflammation and loosen up the calf and fascia. It hurt and I was sore after the appointment, but it helped and lessened the pain the next morning.
She also prescribed far fewer but more targeted stretches and exercises, which I did as promised. She recommended coming in 2-3 times a week, which I was happy to do.
It’s been nine days since I started, but the change in treatment has made a world of a difference. I’m actually starting to feel like I could really be running again in a few more weeks with this treatment plan.
I’ve learned two lessons in all this. First, it’s important to seek help early and often. It didn’t help that I waited almost two weeks before my first appointment and it didn’t help that I didn’t visit the PT again before the race or after I got back home.
Second, who your PT is matters more than you might think. I guess it’s like anything, the person who does a good job – either installing a dishwasher or repairing your knee – matters a lot. Whether it’s for your body, your mind, your mental health, or your spiritual healing, get help quickly, but shop around. Meet more than one expert. Get a few opinions. Don’t settle.
If you’re in the same boat, I’m happy to share any of the exercises or stretches that have helped me so far. Actually having the PT put their hands on your injury and work out some of the knots has made a huge difference too.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to take a little time off, but I’m so ready to get back to it. 🙏🏼🏃♀️❤️
We did it!
A race four years in the making finally came to fruition. Even after illness and injury, I completed one of the hardest half marathons on the planet. It was hilly, rocky, windy at times, and unbelievably muddy. It was everything but freezing cold.
The race was set on King George Island. It was a little over a four mile loop out and back, set along the Uruguayan base. The race director said it was the best and warmest day in the race’s twenty year history. Thank you, global warming.
Although we started out on a frozen tundra of dirt and rock, twenty or so minutes into the race, the temperature rose and capped out at a balmy 36 degrees. That increase along with ninety-some-odd runners trodding the path and a steady stream of glacier runoff created a sticky, sludgy mud path along with sizable puddles – the kind that steal your shoes if you happen to step in the wrong one – on the race course.
The first loop was mostly run on tractor tire treads frozen in the mud. Every tread was an ankle bender so each step was placed carefully. It made for a concentrated effort and although it was cold, there was almost no wind, so I was very warm about half way in and ready to shed a layer.
On the second loop I pulled off a middle layer – a three-quarter zip fleece – and ran in a long sleeve technical tee and windbreaker the rest of the race. I also shed my gloves, which was a bad idea as the wind picked up during my second loop and I was shivering by the time I got back to my gloves around mile eight.
The race was entirely self supported and no plastics of any kind, including those that house nutrition from gels, beans, or in my case Starburst, were allowed on the island. Runners found interesting ways to squeeze their single serve packs of Gu or other gels into bottles that hopefully didn’t clog during the race.
I unwrapped about thirty candies and popped them into the little bag on my water bottle. The red stains on the blue bag still haven’t come out even after a couple of solid washings. Mental note: I need to find a new nutrition strategy. My friends used sport beans, and they seemed pleased with them. I’ll try them next race.
The last loop was the muddiest and messiest. My achilles was screaming and pulsing with pain, but I wasn’t about to cave. I had come this far and with only four miles left, I wasn’t about to stop. I walked up the hills and plodded lightly down limping a little to help relieve the throbbing.
When it was flat, I ran at about 70% effort. I didn’t want to miss out on all the hiking and excursions if I totaled my ankle. In fact, I ran all the way to the finish line.
I completed the half marathon with a time around 3:30-ish and a smile. It was the worst time I had ever run, but I was happy to cross the finish line at all, with both shoes still on my feet and my achilles mostly intact.
Today, I leave for Antarctica. In a few hours, I will board a plane first to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Actually, we’re headed to Houston for an hour and then on to Buenos Aires, but that is a small technicality. We’ll spend a few days in Buenos Aires and then on to Antarctica by way of ship, which we’ll board in Ushuaia.
I’m excited, nervous, frustrated my achilles is not one hundred percent, and did I mention excited? This trip has been over four years in the making and it’s finally here. 🙌🏼
A cold is trying to weasel its way into my system. With all the rain and cold, damp days lately, people have been coughing, sneezing, and sniffling at the office, in the grocery stores, and forget about hitting the gym.
There is something going around. I can feel it worming its way through my sinuses and lungs trying to find a place to settle and get comfy. But, as my grandmother would say, I’m not having any of it. I completely refuse it. To counter its intentions, I’ve loaded up with EmergenC chewable tablets and Coldeeze (zinc), and will continue until both packages are empty.
Plus, there’s so much going on at work that the stress of all the change might have lowered my immune system as well. Change is never easy, even if it’s good. So it feels like it’s either the absolute worst time or positively the best time to be away. Perspective is everything, I suppose.
I’m going with it’s the best time, and will try to put all the change on a shelf for the two weeks I won’t have internet access or cell coverage. That’s right, no cellular coverage on the ship or on the white continent. I’m going to have the shakes for the first 24-48 hours. 😁
When I’m not marveling at the expanse of the Arctic Ocean or gazing at the billions of stars I’ll see from the ship’s deck, I plan to spend indoor cabin time with books – downloaded ten or so – and music. I’ll also bring my Mac to journal and capture the days and moments as they happen, plus do some other writing. And maybe just a teeny, tiny bit of work. Don’t judge.
All in all, I’m pretty much packed. Minimalism certainly has its advantages. I’ve managed to squeeze almost my entire wardrobe and running gear into a carryon and North Face duffle bag. The same duffle I used when I trekked to Everest Base Camp. The bag is enormous and I was able to fit several days of clothes for different climates (Buenos Aires is 75 degrees and Patagonia is 35 degrees) along with a short foam roller, dry bag for the Zodiac, day pack, extra pair of shoes, additional jacket, and much more.
In my carryon, I have all my running gear for race day, which is substantial because of how cold it will be. It’s packed to the brim with running shoes, socks, hat, gloves, balaclava, three layers of clothing, a sports bra, and so on. Plus, I packed all medicine in there too, especially the seasickness patches and my mini first aid kit that mostly consists of moleskin, ibuprofen, bandaids, and blister repair patches.
I also packed the GoPro gear in my carryon along with the bare minimum of clothing should my duffle go missing. No no no, not going to happen. But just in case. South America has a reputation for losing gear. I’m just hoping it’s not mine this time around.
With all of this packing and preparation, I still feel unsettled and unprepared, like I missed something. And I probably did, but I’ll figure it out as I go. Although I had more than four years to prepare for this epic journey, it really boiled down to the last few months and weeks, which happen to be a little tumultuous complete with a heavy dose of sickness and injury.
But, I’ll figure it out. Things always sort themselves out in the end. This is just my experience and I’ll make the best of it, work a little harder, spend a few more cycles making sure I’ve covered all the bases, check my packing list yet again for the fifteenth time. I’ll do – and have done – the hard things now so I can enjoy the fruits a little bit later.
Speaking of fruits, it’s time for breakfast. Next post will be from Argentina.
Buen día! 🗻🏃🏻♀️ 💪🏼