Hello darkness, my old friend…a summer of training and challenges

I know, it’s been a minute. I ran an epic marathon PR at Vermont City Marathon on Memorial Day weekend and then before I knew it, September rolled around and summer is over. The last few months have been equally challenging and empowering. I’d like to say that I handled it all like the stoic champ that I am, but in between existential crises I barely managed to hang onto a robotic sense of normalcy. In the words of Robert Frost, “the best way out is always through,” and through I went, mostly by my own choice. So what’s the score?
PhD comprehensive exams: My cohort of 5 was tested on the first two years of full time coursework the week of July 23. After Adam and I went on Bike Ride Across Georgia in the first week of June, I pretty much dedicated full-time study towards the exams. I did allow myself plenty of time to relax, go to social outings, and run (of course), all for the benefit of my mental health, but the full-time focused study was still pretty mentally and physically exhausting. Give me marathon training any day!
In PhD land, in order to be “qualified” as a PhD candidate and move on with your dissertation work, comprehensive exams act as a Do Not Pass Go. The end result possibilities are: pass, pass with conditions, or fail. I was pretty confident I wouldn’t fail considering I’ve done well in all my courses but I was extremely determined to pass outright, with no conditions. In case it’s not already abundantly clear, I’m a very goal-oriented person. Realistically I knew this was unlikely but I always study with the best possible result in mind. The exams were easier in areas I thought would be hard and hard in areas I thought would be easy, but I generally felt well-prepared. I did pass, but with conditions as expected. Where I mentally finally lost it was the fact that the conditions given ended up being more work than the actual exams. Having pushed through exam week with little sleep, collapsed at the end for one day, and then hopped on a plane to Vancouver for a conference, I was pretty much spent. To then be dumped with additional busy work, further delaying what I viewed as forward progress, was both depressing and infuriating. After decompressing for a day in a rage, I then used the “murder rage” energy to get.that.shit.done. My mother made the excellent point at this time that “there aren’t many people with PhDs in the world…if it were easy, more people would do it.” Amen. At the end of the day, the process was very challenging but it was a challenge by choice. Within one week I was finally finished for real and on a plane to NH to drink and sit on a beach at the lake. Jessica Rudd, PhD Candidate….thank you very much.

While engaging in the challenge by choice PhD exams, I was also training for Marine Corps Marathon. After a great performance, for me, at Vermont City, I was hoping for a strong training season to lead into another PR in October. From day one, this proved to be easier said than done. Training in the heat and humidity in Atlanta for a fall marathon is a very frustrating experience. I know what my training times “should” be for my goal race time, but heat and humidity force my times to be at least a minute slower. As a result, it’s hard to gauge whether my goal times are even realistic. I’ve had to convince myself that getting the miles in will be enough and the fall weather will shift my performance. When I visited Vancouver in August, I had the most amazing runs of my life in the spectacular, not humid, weather. I ran an easy pace at least a minute and a half faster than the pace I struggle to maintain during the summer in Atlanta. My attitude definitely improved after that. Also, my last few long runs in Atlanta have greatly improved and I find myself running with people who have been faster than me in the past. Still hanging onto PR land in my heart. Once again, this is all just a challenge by choice. Choose your suffering wisely.

No matter how crazy life gets, always leave time for health and happiness!

While the two main challenges of my summer were taken by choice, they were both greatly complicated by an additional challenge not of my own making; medical issues. STOP READING IF YOU DON’T WANT TO HEAR ABOUT LADY PROBLEMS (although, honestly, get over it; women have to deal with all sorts of shit and are strong as hell so don’t be willingly blind to our badassness). Without being too graphic, after 20+ years of a completely normal routine, my cycle went completely haywire sometime in January. It was very frustrating, sometimes painful, and a bit scary to be honest. Sometime after the amazing Vermont City Marathon performance, everything went even further downhill and I was feeling drained and uncomfortable ALL.THE.TIME. My runs were even more shitty than they should be simply accounting for heat and humidity, and what should have been a normal cycle. I highly recommend listening to the BibRave Podcast episode with Dr. Stacy Sims on optimized training based on gender for more on how this should go. My coach and friend Amy suggested that my iron levels were probably very low. After several appointments it was confirmed that my iron count was at the level of a starving child and I started on iron supplements to counteract some of the effects. Of course, this is just a band-aid to some underlying problem. After many appointments and expensive tests it was determined I have a uterine fibroid invading approximately 30% of the uterine cavity…oh joy. After struggling since January it’s good to finally get an answer but also shitty that I’ll have to have surgery of some kind in the near future. Some next appointments should determine how invasive this surgery will have to be and whether it can wait until after Marine Corps during the lower activity time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. In the grand scheme of things, it could be WAY worse, and I’m already feeling much better due to the supplements and some other remedies. At this point it’s a waiting game and I feel physically and emotionally much better simply due to knowing I’m not going crazy. Marine Corps is still coming and I’m still chasing that PR. My uterus will just have to deal.

Chime in below or on social with how you face challenges by choice or life. I live my life deciding what I’m willing to “suffer” for? What are you willing to suffer for?
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