Complicated humans.

I’ve been thinking so much about Anthony Bourdain since I heard the news of his death. It has weighed heavily on me the last couple days. I can’t help but equate his situation with my own experiences and the idea that while everything looks polished on the outside; things inside, can be quite different. Are successful, charismatic, adventure seeking people immune to depression? I don’t think so. In fact, I think it’s the opposite. People with the most to lose, have the largest boxes to unpack – metaphorically speaking. And so it goes on – another person chooses to take their own life and everyone around them just can’t believe it. All the “life” boxes had check marks: cynical but incredible sense of humor, money, the perfect career, a fabulously nefarious backstory with a happy ending and of course, enormous talent. Clearly, while everyone is assessing the happiness of others; we are forgetting to actually check in and make sure these people are okay. And that is exactly what happened to me. Except I made it out the other side. In the darkest moment of my life some friends counted my money, other friends drifted away, and a select few remained. But no one ever thought to ask the question: do you need help?

This by the way, wasn’t that long ago which is why it feels so raw and difficult to comprehend. I’ve been there. I’ve been in that place where the idea of closing your eyes and never waking up feels deeply alluring. Almost like a whisper. A whisper with a source you can’t find and it plagues you. The itch grows and grows until eventually, you leap off the cliff in search of it. I thank the wide open universe every single day that I sorted my shit out. I am one of the lucky ones.

In 2012, my daughter Emma’s biological father died in a brutal car accident. The kind of accident that keeps you up at night and pulls at you like a child in need. It haunted me. The grief was so heavy. But rather than confronting the grief – I stuffed it down and hid it away. I thought I needed to be strong for my daughter and how do you mourn someone like that when you’re married? It felt so complicated and I didn’t want to face my own hard truths. I didn’t tell new friends in Maine about what had happened. I simply pretended as if my life was as I presented it. One boy. One girl. Two children. Perfect box. But nothing ever lasts forever and eventually the dam I constructed to hold back my emotions exploded and I was driven into what can only be described as a horrible depression. It started at beginning of 2015 and I only got things under control the end of last year.

For two years I endured this and everything looked just swell on the outside. I was a high functioning individual who was habitually torn in half. My professional life was thriving, I was rocking a 4.0 GPA, I was running really well, my kids were well adjusted and my marriage appeared perfect. I was still vibrant and funny in most situations but I was also angry, extremely judgmental and I gave no one a pass for anything. In fact, there were times that I would classify myself as down right mean. One day while running with friends I became so incensed that I removed my fuel belt, threw it in a field, screamed at the top of my lungs and had a complete meltdown. Everyone thought this was strange but everyone accepted my bullshit reason for why I did it. It never dawned on any of my friends that I was having a nervous breakdown. I was spiraling. And that was just the beginning of the journey down the rabbit hole.

It’s easy to make assumptions about people and it’s characteristic to chronicle a persons journey based on what we see in their social media feed. While it feels good to say things like: why didn’t they ask for help – that just eases your guilt. We are showing signs. Troubling, earth shattering, real deal signs. Maybe you just don’t want to see them. If I am living under a veil of deceit and you’re falling for it – then who’s to blame, me or you? Maybe both. The bottom line is, society, friends, loved ones – need to pay more attention. Depression doesn’t always look like you imagine it. Sometimes, it’s not that messy. It comes in all forms and happens to all types of people. A little kindness, maybe a few probing questions, might go further than you think.

I am lucky. So fucking incredibly lucky. I don’t know how or why I was able to sift through the rubble but I did. I wish I could say the same for outstanding individuals like Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade – or anyone really, who doesn’t think life is worth living anymore. Sometimes, human beings are just – complicated. Without reason or equivocation. If you know someone who is always in search of something, maybe just ask them why. Have a conversation. Sit by them in a moment of quiet. I know it’s easy to say and hard to do – so lets just start by being kind to each other.

Not a bad place to start.

watching what you say on the internet

I do it. You do it. Lots of bloggers do it. (for the record, I am trying to be self aware enough, especially in my new project – to NOT do it) We self deprecate, at the expense of others (often without thinking about it) in hopes of obtaining compliments or patting oneself on the back in a coy way. One major example of this I have noticed (and I am 100% guilty of it in the past) is posting race times and inserting negative commentary about ourselves which inadvertently makes other people feel bad. Your version of “slow” is someone else’s version of “fast.” Saying that you ran an unbelievably slow race at a pace that lots of people strive to hit – isn’t the best way to win friends. And yes, you could argue that those reading should grow up and not take everything so personally but lets remember, this is the age of the internet where all this shit is constantly throw in our faces. It’s kind of hard not to have an opinion about it or get our feelings hurt OR for that matter – allow the words of others to set unrealistic expectations for ourselves. Sometimes all the chatter isn’t necessary. (and yes this is coming from someone who is currently blogging and if you find yourself rolling your eyes then you obviously don’t get it and should just click away from my site)

I am a lucky girl. I know lots of runners. Some of them are SUPER fast. None of those people are posting their race times or their paces or slamming their performance on the internet. The people I know – who are running times I can’t fathom – usually don’t say a fucking thing about it. They stay quiet. They are humble. And that is the thing I love the most about them. I’ve tried to learn from that because I have had people message me privately (people that I’ve asked to run with) only to be told I appear too intimidating to them. Two seconds scrolling through Facebook from the years 2013-2016 showed me some disgusting behavior where yes, if I were reading that shit, I wouldn’t run with me either. I was so worried about hitting my version of fast that it never occurred to me that I was making other people feel like crap. Crying over a 2:02 half marathon after running a 2:01 half marathon the week before made me look stupid because two years and lots of hiccups later – I would love that time. I would feel all the good feels about that time. I would be happy just to run a half marathon. If you have two legs and they are operable and moving – just be grateful. Life is good.

This linguistic exchange of the ideal version of ourselves can inadvertently hurt those around us. I think females are more susceptible of this because we hold ourselves to the craziest of expectations. All the noise makes it very difficult to sort through what is real. In my next project, that is the cornerstone of my new philosophy: think before you speak – especially when it is being thrown out to lots of people. Don’t advocate for things that are unattainable and don’t put yourself down because it will in one way or another, hurt others. This goes for race times, body shaming, relationship gloating, fad diets, etc. We can talk about body shaming another time but ladies – PLEASE – don’t post pictures referring to yourself as fat or saying you slipped on your diet just so the world can tell you how great you look. It sounds as ridiculous as it looks. Lets just give ourselves a break and change the internal conversation when looking at ourselves in the mirror. And, if you can’t do that, then handle your shit privately so I don’t feel obligated to give you an empty compliment and then turn around and analyze everything I shoved in my mouth that day.

Don’t get me wrong, I love reading about people’s journeys – but only when constrcutive. Two years ago, a friend of mine blogged about her mission to break 4 hours in a marathon. It was honest. It was raw. It was real. And it made me smile every single time I read it. While she referenced her time goals and cataloged her training plan – the blog felt informative and necessary. It felt like a platform in which to challenge others because it came from a very authentic place. It made me want to be better. It made me want to push myself. She set a high standard and the conversation was a positive one. I’m sure it pushed lots of women to think: “I can do this too.” And that’s the type of nurturing guidance we need on the internet. I hope to see more from her in the coming months. 

Let’s change the conversation and be kind to ourselves and each other. We are all doing the best we can. We are all beautiful. We all run fast. We are all here to conquer.

Becoming connected to my own body

In my early 20’s; I could pummel my body without refuge. I ran a lot back then and paid zero attention to what my body required. I figured if I smashed fifteen red bull vodkas and followed it up with a twenty piece chicken nugget – my body would need roughly 5-7 miles the next day to get back in sync. (mind you, I might puke out my hang over at mile 4 but who gives a shit about the semantics) Nothing ever felt off. If I was tired, I took a nap (where ever mind you, that felt logical at the time). If I felt under the weather, I would slam a carb laden bagel. As an athlete, more was better. And frankly, there seemed to be no consequences. If my performance didn’t suffer then obviously my lifestyle choices were working. Overall, I would say that I was zero percent connected to my body. Fortunately for me, youth hid this for awhile.

Now, I am in my almost mid (what the fuck) thirties and I can’t get away with that shit anymore. If I have two glasses of wine, I am hungover the next day. If I miss a full night of sleep, I will quite literally, imagine how blissful it would be to just fall asleep while driving (is that normal???). And, if I am training for something, my body lets me know when its depleted. I’ve learned in the last year that in order to reach my goals – I need to make calculated decisions about where I go, what I eat, what I do and when/how I sleep. Every thing comes with a price and in order to be well, I need to be extremely connected with my body.

The past few months have been rough. I was struggling with pretty severe anemia and had no idea. I was tired all the time, frequently got sick, I was pale, had what I described as horrible “panic attacks” while running, I couldn’t sleep and I felt run down every single day. It was like a fog had washed over me. I was also impatient, short with 99% of the people I dealt with and intolerant of any behavior that didn’t align with my very specific terms. When I finally found out that none of this was normal and my body has been literally SCREAMING at me for help – I felt so relieved. #1 – because for the first time, my issues had nothing to do with my heart and #2 – because with this information came a solution. And a solution meant I didn’t have to live like this. I talked to my doctors, my coach and my husband. They all had something to contribute. Since I discovered this a few weeks before the marathon, I had a chance of feeling better before my stroll down Boylston.

I had no idea how serious an iron deficiency could be. Nor did I realize the sheer amount of symptoms that come along with it. In the weeks following my discovery, I have worked tirelessly to combat this issue with supplementation and dietary changes.  The effect of all these changes? Well, to put it in my coaches words (she has also suffered from an iron deficiency) – I feel awake. My energy has completely turned around. I’m happier (like no joke, I am WAY happier). I look healthier. My workouts feel solid and I’m excited for them. I feel normal. Just being able to say that, is so refreshing.

Athletes are very susceptible to having an iron deficiency and let me tell you, it’s a complicated thing. People who are iron deficient are usually Vitamin C deficient and sometimes Vitamin B/D deficient. If you are eating too many things with other minerals (magnesium for instance); they might be in direct competition with your bodies ability to absorb iron. Drinking caffeine also prevents your bodies ability to absorb iron. Steaming veggies al dente is best because it retains iron (if you are eating iron rich vegetables). I mean – THERE ARE SO MANY THINGS. But, we must pay attention to perform well. Our bodies are complex organisms and when put to the test; they need lots of vital nutrients. While I’m not a professional athlete by any means, I am in constant competition with myself. I want to do well. And for me, that means establishing a deep connection with my body and nourishing it as well as I can.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not as simple as: one, two, three. No fix is easy or permanent. And I’ve learned, I can only do what is sustainable and attainable. For now, my goal is to simply pay attention. As much as I can as often as I can. I encourage all of you to do the same – especially if you are logging a lot of workouts or miles.

Here is my go-to iron rich smoothie:

IRON DEFICIENCY SMOOTHIE
1-1/2 cup homemade almond milk (if you buy it look at the ingredients and make sure it is unsweetened!)
1/2 cup spinach
1/2 cup kale
1/2 cup frozen strawberries (surprisingly a good source of Vitamin C)
1/2 a medium sized beet (cut into very small pieces)
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1 heaping tablespoon of raw cocoa
1 heaping teaspoon spirulina

Blend this all together (you may need more liquid) and drink it fast as fuck. Just kidding! It’s actually not bad at all. The strawberries really save the day.

Enjoy!

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the incredible, impossible – me

the incredible, impossible – me

It’s not often that I will admit to being proud of myself without equivocation or explanation as to what I would do better. When I receive a compliment; thank you is very rarely in my vocabulary as a response. I usually say something self deprecating instead. In athletics, academia, cooking explorations and professional life – I don’t see growth or progress – I see: what can I do better next time. And that is always the way things have been. Over the years; I have been searching with vigor for that perfect moment when everything in life appears to be – just as I want it. When the stars align and my body tells me, this is the one you’ve been waiting for. But lets be honest, life is a constant shit show – a collection of moments that have an air of imperfection. Things don’t often go as you imagine and even the best laid plans crumble in the face of adversity.

However, last Monday, while running the Boston Marathon in pouring rain and sweeping winds, the universe collected itself and handed me one of the most beautiful moments I have ever experienced. Now, this moment was not as I had theorized it in my mind. As a runner, you imagine the finish line a thousand times. What will it look like, how will you feel, what song will be playing? There are so many variables. My training for Boston had been, less than perfect. I started late and I hit a ton of road blocks. So in my mind, this day would be messy no matter what. Add the coldest temperatures in 30 years on marathon Monday, 26-40mph winds, torrential downpours and lack of planning for said weather and you know – things start getting a little fucking hairy. I didn’t prepare mentally or physically for this particular shit show and so naturally, I was very nervous going into the race. BUT – I focused on what I could control which was my mindset and seeing as though this was my last stroll down Boylston, I wanted it to be a good one. I wanted to experience sheer happiness. And you know what, I totally and completely did.

I don’t want to get into a whole recap of the day – I just wanted to put out into the universe that I am immensely grateful for what I consider the most perfect moment. A moment to be really proud of. Despite being under the weather the weekend prior and being drastically under dressed for the conditions – I had a wonderful day. A day that consisted of texts and well wishes all morning long, seeing Allison’s bright smile at mile 14 (which I carried with me, no joke, for the rest of the race), hi-fiving the crowds of Boston for 26 miles, taking food from everyone who offered oranges and thanking them joyfully and last but certainly not least, kissing both of my children and my husband at the finish line while welling up in tears. Myself, along with some remarkably fast friends of mine, all had the pleasure of running this iconic race.

It’s hard for me, to say that I am truly proud of something. Especially when I raised money for charity and 95% of Boston qualifies. But on this particular occasion, I am happy to report that my positive mind set rewarded me handsomely. Not only was I beaming with happiness for 26.2 miles but I felt accomplished the second I hit that finish line.

While I won’t be running anymore marathons for medical reasons, I have four AMAZING marathons behind me. Amazing because they all have a air of adventure to them. It’s not fun unless there’s a story and for sure, every medal hanging from my rack – has just that. While I may at times have incredible dreams; I for sure, never find anything impossible. So now it’s on to the next thing. Swimming, biking and hopefully some really strong running.

Until next time,

Jenny

This crazy thing we call life PLUS sweet potato quesadilla recipe

This crazy thing we call life PLUS sweet potato quesadilla recipe

When I woke up Monday morning; my intention was not to join a Boston Marathon charity team in the year 2018. In fact, running a marathon has been the furthest thing from my mind. I started training ever so gradually January 7th after what felt like the stomach flu/strep throat ruled my life in December. My coach and I had laid out the plan before starting again and I had carefully selected each and every target. But what can I say? Eating better food has invaded my brain and I feel very clear. I’m sure it’s not just FOOD but for the first time in 3 years; I’m not afraid of the work or the unknown. I’m okay with the uncertainty in training for a marathon and consequently running that marathon. I mean, lets be honest, no matter what you do or how well you prepare; come race day – anything can happen. I chose a charity carefully and the decision to pull the trigger came out of no where. I’ve had a handful of runs in the cold that have just really inspired me and that created a sort of eruption in my heart that screamed: lets do this. And so, yesterday, without hesitation or pause; I submitted my application for the Michael’s Miracle Boston Marathon team. Less than 30 minutes later, I got a call that my application stood out against the 100 that had been sitting on this ladies desk and that I was on the team. Full disclosure, my longest run in the last 6 weeks has been 3 miles and I am unprepared to say the least. Lucky for me, I have a really solid coach and I know she will formulate a plan that eases me into where I need to be. I need to raise a minimum of $5,000 but I’ve chosen a lofty goal of $15,000 because, why not? As you all know, I never do anything small. AND this charity needs the money. They need it. Plain and simple. The money raised by the Boston Marathon team makes up 25% of their annual budget and every penny stays in house. I have some fun fundraising ideas and over the next 12 weeks; I’ll be asking friends and families to dig into their pockets for a charity that helps the lives of families caring for those that are severely disabled. It’s an amazing center and I’m sure as you all hear more about it; you’ll be inclined to spend less on something frivolous and donate to such a good cause. If you feel inclined to donate (which I hope you all do) here is the link to my fundraising page. 

This thing we call life is CRAZY. But right now, I feel like it’s crazy good.

Now, about this life changing sweet potato dish that takes like no time to whip together and can be done in ONE pan. YES. I serve this with homemade salsa which you can find the recipe for here. For me, the salsa just makes this dish. A little sprinkling of fresh cilantro, hot sauce and perhaps a smidge of sour cream and you’ll find – meat doesn’t even come into question. You don’t need it to enjoy saucy Mexican flavors. My apologies for the poor picture. I can’t always invest time in top notch photography. I’m saving that for my new project.

SWEET POTATO QUESIDILLAS – Makes 4 quesadillas

1 can of organic black beans – rinsed and drained
1 sweet potato – diced into small squares (relatively small, you don’t want huge chunks falling out and you want them to cook quickly)
1/2 cup red pepper – diced
1/4 red onion – diced
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
Salt + Pepper to taste
Handful of freshly chopped cilantro
1/2 cup shredded cheese of your choice (I used sharp cheddar and/or Mexican blend) – if you don’t do cheese, simply leave this out
8 grain free soft tortillas

Preheat oven to 375. Place a saute pan on the stove-top and set your heat to medium/medium low. Drizzle about 2 teaspoons of olive oil (you can also use coconut oil) and add the sweet potatoes. Cook for 5-8 minutes, stirring frequently. Add red peppers and onions, saute for another 5 minutes. Add black beans, cumin and chili powder, salt and pepper to taste. Continue stirring. Cook until sweet potatoes are soft but not mushy. Remove from heat. Place 4 tortillas on a baking sheet and evenly distribute the filling. Sprinkle on top of the filling the fresh cilantro and shredded cheese. Top with remaining 4 tortillas and press down ever so gently. Put your baking sheet in the oven and bake only until the cheese has melted and the tortillas are nicely browned on top. You don’t want them completely brown; just enough so you see a golden brown around the edges. Remove from oven, let sit for 2 minutes. Cut each quesadilla into 4 squares, top with fresh salsa, sour cream, hot sauce, whatever. Enjoy!