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From PM to HR: How I'm Training for the Pilot Mountain to Hanging Rock 50 Miler

Trail runner in hydration vest, and "Run Happy" hat in the woods on a trail during a normal training run.
End of Week 2!

I have been here before for sure. I have trained for this 50-miler 2 years ago, and was ready to go and then Hurricane Ian hit that weekend. The race was cancelled. Last year, there was not a prayer that I could race, I felt like crap. And... if you asked me 2 months ago, I would have thought you were crazy. As a matter of fact, all my running buds kept asking "Are you training for anything?" And I just shook my head. Basically, I was trying to just get better. Since last year, I have really been on the bottom. I had my first "pre-diabetic" blood work come back, I had testing that was positive for yeast and mold, difficulty processing fatty acids, not enough protein... I already knew I had cardiovascular genetic risks, but thought I could get by with healthy eating and exercise, but then found I was missing some major detox genes; I had the celiac and an autoimmune gene. Of course, this does not diagnose any disease, and that was not my point. My point was after working as a nurse for the last 30 years, being short-staffed as a staff nurse and as a director, followed by 2 years of pandemic nursing on the front-lines, the loss of both my parents, and more, throw it all in with Type A personality, and the drive to finish my doctorate... I crashed... and I wanted to know HOW DO I GET BACK? When I graduated, I was actively interviewing and kept turning down positions because I really did not even know what I wanted to do at that point. I felt terrible, I wasn't sleeping, couldn't lose any weight despite my healthiest diet and 40-plus miles a week of running. I really couldn't see myself working for the profession that seemed to leave me hanging.

So what changed?

Sitting on the deck in the sun reading a research article on fueling performance in endurance athletes.
Researching all angles.

Having started a new business last year, I had thrown everything I had into it. I wanted to help others get well. Unfortunately, I needed to do the same for me. My integrative nurse practitioner had done some testing and given me some supplement suggestions. Then I started doing a lot of the work on my own. I began researching, asking the questions that no one was able to answer and find those answers. In the past month, I finally found some relief from chronic pain that has plagued me for decades. Doctors could not give me an answer, or treat it without medication, and their conventional testing found nothing significant.

What did I do?

A trail path with a number of large trees down in which runners are navigating around, under, and over to continue on the 2.5 mile path.
Climbed over these downed trees twice!

I had done an Elimination Diet last year and really did not notice any significant reduction in pain (which really is my overall complaint). It hurts to run, it hurts not to run, it hurts to go upstairs, it hurts worse to go down. By last year, every joint south of my belly-button felt stiff and painful, and yet, unless I dosed up on ibuprofen (not great for kidneys), and acetaminophen (not great for the liver), I was always in pain. This year, when I did the elimination diet I also was having some pretty significant eczema on my right hand. So, I began pulling everything out of my diet, I worked with a health coach on the elimination diet to have that accountability piece. I knew it, I trained in it, but I needed someone to say, "You really should wait before you add 'that' back in". By the end of the elimination diet, my hand was just about as clear as it has ever been, except a little dryness. I am allergic to mold and dust mites, so some of it may certainly be contact issues with instigators. I pretty much decided I will not eat wheat again. I really don't need it. I have not added back corn either. I limit my sugar to just about none, and you may be surprised, but I have a pretty flexible and enjoyable diet. I have learned the alterations I needed to make and I live with it pretty well.

Here I am doing a reverse lunge, they are easier on the knees, and they help build muscle to be able to climb up mountains and rough and rocky terrain.
Strength training, never fun, but always worth it.

So, what I am doing is really not all that crazy. Over the next 17 weeks now, I will be training to finish this 50-miler within the time frame. I know what that means, I know the paces I need to hit, and I know the terrain. What I have done these past two weeks of starting my 19 wk-training session, is to really begin to increase my mileage slowly. I do that with adding in walking miles. They are gentle on the joints and add movement and sometimes a little jog, and ... it's great for the dog, right? Strength training, I started over a month ago with weight training, and now using targeted strength exercises specifically for the work I will need to do. I alternate one day I focus on my core strength, the other day I focus on my leg strength. I am also using intermittent fasting right now, as it promotes healing at the cellular level when fasting is done within a specific time frame. Over the summer, I will be watching what I eat, the supplements I take, and the workouts I use to see how my body responds. Each week has a few run days, a few walk days, a cross-train day, and a long run. There is no secret, I am an "older" runner, and unfortunately, women after menopause lose muscle, bone, and they tend to have increased muscle, joint, sleep, and weight gain complaints. For years... and I say this vehemently, personally, my doctors have addressed this with no knowledge of functional medicine, and little knowledge of the impact that stress, adverse childhood events, and genetics can have on an individual. You go with a complaint, they pull out a script pad, or they basically send you packing without a script, and that is when you really feel like you are the crazy one, and that any sense of a normal life at that point is simply hopeless.

Selfie by the lake, sweaty but smiling, after making a personal best on this trail I have run for years.
This past week running on a local trail with my running friends.

These photos were taken this past week. I feel tired, but I feel great. My pain is less by about 80%, I have lost some weight while gaining some strength. Where I use to fall all the time, I now am able to catch myself. I hope to share over the course of the next several months, how I have turned this body-chaos around with the help of modifiable lifestyle factors. Part of my job as a functional medicine nurse is to help others who are very much starting from where I started, having been told their labs are normal, and left feeling crummy with no where to go. So, I hope that you will sit back and watch, or better yet, join me, get out and move and do things that enhance your own quality of life. Running long distance is not everyone's idea of fun, so find out what is, and do that! And no! That doesn't mean eat a carton of ice cream. Find a healthy FUN! I am here to help you find your healthy today!

Blue sky, puffy white clouds and able to see for miles, off a rocky mountain top ledge.
Hanging Rock State Park

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