Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Random Stuff Wednesday!

Okay, so I have been logging random articles and fun fact and random thoughts that I've had in a draft blog post and it is time to just clear everything out.  I know that this is totally random and probably the worst blog post ever, but I promise I will get back on my game soon.  I outdid myself with that blog about psoriasis so a few crummy ones are in order.

- First off, this Atlanta heat is brutal.  BUT, my body is definitely adjusting.  A few times I have walked out of my house in the morning to go run and though, "Brrr... it's chilly!" and then looked at the temperature to realize it is 75 degrees.  What?  Not normal to think that's "chilly!"  At least not for a New Englander!

- I am immature sometimes and get the giggles about teenager type things.  However, I've had this picture stored in this "random odds and ends" blog draft since my most recent trip to Arizona.  While out on a run, I had to stop and take a picture of this street intersection signs of "69th" place and "Jackrabbit."  Yup, this amused me.


- Also, on the recent trip that happened right AFTER when I was in Arizona, in Saratoga Springs, I snapped a couple pictures of some great sidewalk signs.  I love motivational quotes and being told I'm beautiful, so it's obvious why that one stopped me.  Also, the beer one.  Love it and so true!  I have now survived two rather stressful days at work and wanted a beer soooo bad each night but have been holding off since I plan to indulge this weekend in ice cream and junk food so working to save those calories!!

Also, not pictured?  A recent sign I saw at Mexican restaurant that said "Soup of the Day: Tequila."  I loved that.



- I have recently started to refine my skills on Photoshop on my phone.  Yes, random photo editing on my phone.  It is sort of scary how easy it can be and part of a larger problem of now even more fake "is this real life" stuff happening across social media.  I am just having fun with it and promise I am not going to be doing anything too crazy, probably just fixing zits and things like that, but check this out...



Did you catch that?  Not only did I enhance the colors and crop the image... I also removed the telephone poles from the picture.  ALL FROM MY PHONE.  I mean, as an old school photo kid, this is crazy to me.  I remember learning Photoshop in the classroom and magically being able to edit pictures in this way and feeling like the most powerful person in the world.  It was hard to learn how to do and took time.  And now?  I can literally just do this all from my phone within a few minutes.  Crazy!  I sort of just did it to see if I could.  But it's addicting.  The power is real, people.

- Recently I received a traffic ticket while driving the airport.  I was SO PISSED.  It was on my last trip, it was 6:00 p.m. and I was sitting in rush hour traffic in the middle of the city on 75.  For those of you in Atlanta, you know what this means.  We were barely moving.  I picked up my phone from the center console to look at the Google Maps app that I had open and check to see when the traffic would clear.  And all of a sudden the lights start flashing from the car kind of next to me.  I was given a ticket for using a phone while in a moving vehicle.  Because apparently stopped in traffic is a moving vehicle and looking at traffic is illegal.

I honestly wasn't aware of that since I use Google Maps ALL THE TIME to navigate.  So be careful out there people.

- Recently I asked my friend who lifts weights all the time how I could get a flat stomach and he said, "Cut carbs and sugar." And my response after a short pause was, "Umm.... and what are my other options?"  I may or may not ever get there but gosh darn it, I can't give up carbs and sugar.  That being said, I am consciously trying to cut back on soda.  I skipped it for about 3 weeks and then had some today and my stomach hurt.  I kept telling myself, "Remember this feeling!!!!"

Why is it so easy to remember how bad being sore after a tough leg day workout is, yet so hard to remember how bad it makes you feel to eat crummy?

-  If you would like to learn something about the Atlanta music scene and also about how to make it big in the music scene out of Atlanta (*cough cough* it is strip clubs), read this article.

- Did I mention this yet?  I know I said I wanted a Starbucks frappucino after my struggle run on Sunday, but lately I have been craving iced coffee at the end of my runs.  SO BAD.  My coffee intake has gone up dramatically lately. I am sure there are worse things that I could be craving so I am really okay with it.  I think about them the whole time I am running and man do they taste delicious when I finally get them!


- And finally, for today, Runners World's recent had an article about "keeping it real" and runners showed their self portraits.  I loved it, but the link seems to be broken right now.  If you get the chance, Google it or something because it was worth it.

Happy Wednesday everyone!!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Decatur Dekalb 4-Miler Race Recap

Earlier this year, I signed up for the Atlanta Track Club.  It was like $25 or something like that, you got a free hat, and you had guaranteed entry into the Peachtree Road Race.  That was enough for me.

What I later learned and has earned my money's worth, is that the track club puts on a lot of races that are free for members.  I love free things.  Don't remind me that I paid for entry earlier this year.  The races are still free!

So when I found out a bunch of my friends were doing the Decatur Dekalb 4-Miler race on Saturday the 18th, when I saw it was a free race I signed up.  As the race got a little closer, I started to feel like, "Crap, do I really want to do this?"  I haven't really been giving myself many rest days and I wasn't sure when I was going to do my longer run over the weekend so I just felt really unsure of it.

When my alarm went off in the morning, I was still really unsure of it.  I almost didn't go.  It WAS free, so it wasn't as if I would be losing anything.  However, I had told all my friends I would be there and I don't like to not do things that I say I am going to do.  Plus, one of my friend's moms was visiting from out of town and I like spending time with people's families and all that jazz.


I got over to the race and as I was driving there thought maybe I would even just run my 3 miles before the race started (I was planning to arrive there about an hour early.)  As soon as I met up with my friends though I threw that plan out the window because I was having fun just hanging out with them.  I then started to think about how if I should run fast or not.  I really wasn't feeling it for whatever reason but also had a small goal in the back of my mind.

Four miles is a weird race distance.  The only other 4 mile race I have done is the Firecracker 4 run that takes place on the Fourth of July in Saratoga every year.  It is the race that I first ran with Jess and Aubrey a few years ago, where we went out to lunch afterwards, I met Jess's adorable kids for the first time, our friendships essentially started and the year that "Katelyn's School of Smiles" was founded by Aubrey.


The next year, after having run a marathon together, Jess and I ran the Firecracker 4 again in tutus.


Anyways, enough about reminiscing.  Let's get back to the 4-mile distance and the fact that two years ago I ran 4 miles in 40:40 and then last year I ran the 4-mile distance in 36:31.  This year, I didn't run that exact race, but I knew in my mind I could beat that time if I tried hard.

Since I have been working on speed, I have now set personal best times in every race distance this year (except for the 15K.)  I would love to try and have the goal of having all my personal best times in the different distances be from 2015 so I had that goal in my mind.  But I also thought it would just be fun to run with my friends, something I don't usually do during races because I get too focused.  I was back and forth up until when we were at the start wave.  I didn't walk to a faster pace wave and stayed with my friends saying I was going to take it easy.  I also mentioned the goal that I had and my idea of beating 36:31 on the race.  "What??" they said.  And encouraged me to not be lazy and go after the goal.  So, with a last minute push from my friends, I decided to try and go for it.

I knew the time that I needed and rather than run all out crazy, I figured I would just try and get under that goal.  The course was fun and went by pretty fast to be honest.  There were some pretty neighborhoods, some rolling hills to keep my mind and body at attention, and a few friends out on the course that I ran into.

The strangest part of the route came at the very end when we ran through a McDonald's parking lot.  It was really bizarre.  The race could have very easily gone around it on the street corner, but instead we ran through the parking lot.  Weird.

I felt good for the majority of the race until the very end, I kept checking my watch and my pace, which I usually don't do during a race but I actually didn't want to be running any faster than I necessarily needed to.  I was hoping to just get under the time I needed to from the last 4-mile race I did.

The last leg of the race felt like it took forever, but I pushed across the finish line and was totally surprised to see my time of 33;49.  Apparently I am learning more than ever lately that I really suck at telling time and pacing and distances. I also messed up our run this morning, but that's another story.  Anyways, my attempt to just get under 36:31 ended me with a 33:49.



It seriously shocks me every time what these numbers are you guys.  It truly does.  I hope that comes across.  Because two years ago I ran a 4-mile race in July in a total time that is 7 minutes slower than what I ran this past weekend.  I know it is stereotypical, but it is true that when you lose weight or go through changes, it is hard to see yourself in the new light that you're in.  I always see myself as the slow, chubby, out of shape girl and just set out to finish.  It is exciting and fun to see my times increase but also puts a whole new level of pressure on me, or that I put on myself.


I had a conversation with my friend about the fact that I have a "race speed."  Because I do not do my training runs at that pace at all!  However, I somehow kick it up a lot during races.  Should I be pushing harder during training?  Should I be running those paces every time?  I mainly take the approach that you cannot run at max capacity all of the time.  It is not healthy for your body or your mind.  I like training for races because it does give me something to push towards.  I think having a race pace is a pretty normal thing for most people and lately I have been working to be sure to push my pace and effort during training as well - which I am sure is helping impact these numbers I am seeing during races.


I've mentioned before that rest is so important.  You can't go all out all the time.  Your body needs time to recover.  A trainer wrote on Facebook the other day, "Remember - muscles are torn in the gym, fed in the kitchen, and built in bed."  The rest time is when your body and muscles recover and build themselves back up after you tear them apart during workouts.  If you're only tearing, you will get hurt.  I don't claim to be an expert, but I believe this to be true.  And the same goes for diet, I think you need to keep your metabolism guessing every now and then, so just totally cutting out food and calories and going to the extreme there, hurts you in the end.

Anyways, the race was a lot of fun with lots of friends there.  When I finished I waited for my friends to all cross the finish line, drank lots of water, and then we went out to get something to eat.  It was a delicious breakfast, although I was jealous of everyone's pancakes.


Another race, and another personal best time for me in a different distance!  It isn't a pace best time or anything, but glad I was able to beat my time from the last 4-mile race I ran.  Yay!


Monday, July 20, 2015

Chicago Marathon Training: Week 6 Recap

Before I get started, just want to send a massive thank you to everyone who texted, Facebook messaged, G-Chatted or commented here or on Facebook after my last post went up.  Your support and encouragement and kind words - and most of all - those who told me that they empathized with what I wrote have been dealing with similar struggles - all mean so much to me.  It's a big lesson that everyone has their various "things" and that none of us need to be alone.  Thank you all for being my community, my safe space, and my motivators.

And now, following that little interlude of self exposure and opening up about my psoriasis on here, I am back to regularly scheduled programming with another week of workout roundups.  I worked hard this week and had a few major personal wins that I am proud of, as well as a massive struggle workout on Sunday.  Let's recap the week, shall we?

Monday:

In the evening, I went right from work to the local store where I bought my bike, my shoes, and have gone to with many of my biking questions.  I finally had the pedals switched out on my bike to get clip in pedals!  I already had the shoes and have been procrastinating getting the clip in pedals for my bike because I was scared.  But, I switched them up and went out for a bike ride on Monday night to try them out for the first time!  I rode 16 miles and was so impressed with the amount of power I was able to put into riding the bike by clipping in!  I LOVED it.  I've already been in love with my rode bike for a while and this made it even better, if it was possible.




Tuesday:

AM workout doing a 1500 meter swim at the gym.  I swam at an easy pace, still just trying to get more comfortable doing that distance nonstop since that is the distance of the swim in the Olympic Triathlon I have on August 8th!  I want to start to increase the intensity when I do these 1500 meter swims and also try some in a lake or something soon.  I've also been trying to mimic swimming in open water in the pool by lifting my head up to pretend to sight for buoys and trying to do various pickups.

In the evening I went to the Movers + Pacers sprint night workout, running 3 miles beforehand with three friends.  The sprint workout is 10x100 meter sprints, which I somehow felt like I have been getting worse at over the months.  Maybe it's just because my legs are tired from other training, but it did feel good to get myself completely out of breathe on some of those sprints!  I was talking with a trainer at my gym and she said that spiking my heart rate like that will help to burn fat and hopefully get me over the final hump of where I'd like to be physically.  I'm all for trying that!!  And besides, sprint night is always just a ton of fun.  I haven't been in a while so was excited to get back out.





Wednesday:

My mileage this week was to do 3-5-3-7.  The way my training plan is set up is to do three midweek runs and one weekend longer run.  I have been doing my runs on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday during the week so on Wednesday morning I got up to do 5 miles in the morning even though I had just run in the evening (I generally try not to do that - run evening, run AM.)  I met a friend who originally said she only wanted to do 3 with me but ended up sticking with me for the full five.  It was a gorgeous morning to run and I was so thankful for the company!



That evening I had plans for happy hour which was a major thumbs up and lots of fun.  However, as a couple random side notes... on Wednesday we went out to lunch for a team event at work.  We tried a restaurant called Chow Baby that is essentially make your own stir fry.  For those in New England, it's like an amped up version of Fire & Ice but way cheaper.  It was good and I really enjoyed the creations I made, but also, the options at these places stress me out.  I did a decent job of avoiding the carbs (no rice, which I LOVE) but still overate.  It was good though!


I'd forgotten we were doing the lunch and had packed my own food for the day.  Not wanting it to go to waste, I ate it in the car, with my fingers, while in traffic on the way to happy hour.  People really shouldn't let me out in public.



Thursday:

In the morning it was time for another three mile run and this time I had two friends to meet up with.  I felt like I was chasing them the whole time but kept my pace pushing and I finished this run, ending another week of sub 10 minute mile runs this week.  It has continued to be humid but I am fighting through it and continuing to stay super hydrated.


In the evening I met with a personal trainer at the gym for an hour session.  When I joined the gym in December, I got a number of free personal training sessions with the gym and I never used them all, so I decided to finish out those sessions.  Man, did she KICK MY BUTT on Thursday evening!  She had me doing all sorts of crazy crab walks, squats, and all sorts of craziness.  It felt good though and I was super proud of myself for toughing through it all and not giving up.  I was sort of feeling myself post workout and took some gym selfies.  Which I am told are called "swelfies" when you take pics after working out.




I celebrated by going to the bar at the gym and meeting a friend for a beer.  Yes, my gym has a bar.  And yes, on Thursdays they have $2 draft beers.  They are trying to keep us fat and paying members.  But I didn't hate it on Thursday!

Friday:

Friday morning I got up for my regular Master's swim workout and it was great!  I really pushed myself hard, even though I was the last one to finish every set.  We did a number of 50 meter swims on a minute, and I was finishing 5 seconds under every time.  Granted, I was a bit disappointed that I wasn't swimming faster, but I was also proud of myself for finishing every set and not stopping.  I have been thinking a lot about how to improve.  And you can't improve by doing things at a moderate pace.  I also know that it probably makes sense for me to even cut back on some of the total time I am spending exercising and increasing the intensity - which is what I did on Thursday night and Friday morning.


There are a few things that I know are critically important at this point in training, part of which is getting adequate rest.  That is in the form of breaks from exercising, and also in the form of SLEEP.  I worked hard to try and get myself to bed earlier this week and it is something I need to continue to make a priority.  I was exhausted by week end and actually took a nap on Friday afternoon before going out in the evening.

Saturday:

My workout on Saturday consisted of a 4-mile run at the Decatur Dekalb Atlanta track Club race.  It was a great run and I finished with a time of 33:49, which makes it a PR for me in a 4-mile race!  Over on my Race Calendar and Results page, I track where I get personal best times.  I'm on my way to having a personal best in pretty much every distance for the year (fingers crossed on the marathon.)  I may be having to find myself a 15K to run later this year to have pink across the board in 2015!


Per usual I will do a full race recap, but it was a fun morning and had me feeling really good about the time I was able to pull off.

Sunday:

This is where things get bad.  So, I decided to let myself sleep in on Sunday.  And sleep in I did.  Due to also letting myself stay up later and having maybe one or two extra beverages that I didn't need to have, I had a lazy morning.  I woke up feeling fine, but definitely not hydrated to the point that I should be when going out to work out in 95 degree weather.

I left the house at about 10:15 a.m. and my plan was to do a 20 mile bike ride and then a 7 mile run.  I started out on the bike and very quickly realized that I was not feeling too well.  What didn't help is that the route that I was planning on riding apparently has construction going on and is being repaved.  So the road was totally torn apart in that pre-new paving ridged bumpy grossness.  I had to change course as I was trying to get over to the bike path (about 4 miles from me) and the route was just in blazing sunlight.  And on a main road, which made me really anxious.

I stopped a few times not sure what to do, feeling really terrible, wishing I had put on sunscreen, thinking about just driving to the bike path, etc. etc.  Well, I ended up just turning back and going home for a total of 6 miles.  I felt terrible.

This is no joke, I walked in my door and balanced my bike against the counter and immediately just lay down on the floor in the entryway right after you walk into my apartment.  I dropped all my things and lay on the floor and didn't get up until I had napped about an hour.

As I lay there I was thinking about the clock ticking away at the time, how late it was getting, and what I should do with the day.  I was thinking maybe I would cancel the afternoon plans I had and do the 7 miles.  Maybe I could do them on Monday and rearrange my whole running week?  Maybe I could just skip that run since I had done 4 the day before and 4 is kind of close to 7?  Maybe I could just melt into the floor and stay there forever and never run again?

I somehow arose from my magic floor nap a little bit more rejuvenated and I pulled out an old trick of mine and "compromised" with myself to get out to the bike path and run just 3 miles.  I figured if I ran 3 miles I would be at a total for 7 for the weekend and that would be okay.

So I got to the bike path, and what happened was what I hoped would happen.  When I got 1.5 miles out on the path, I told myself, "Why don't you just go another half mile further?" and then, "If you just keep going a little more you can get in 5 miles?" and so on and so on.  I ended up turning around at 3 miles, so I was heading back in for a total of 6 and my plan was to then do an out and back to get to 7.  However, when I hit about 4.5, I was feeling dead.  Just a week before I'd run the same path feeling awesome on the way back in and I started to feel not okay all over.

During that run on Sunday, I never zoned out.  I was consciously aware that I was running for every minute of it.  My head was pounding.  My skin was hot.  I didn't bring any water.  I felt like my brain was boiling over.  From mile 5 to 6, I was just trying to hold it together.  I was focusing on putting one foot in front of the other and being happy with whatever I could do to get myself closer.  The steps dragged on and every few feet felt like an eternity.

My pace had actually been pretty good for the first 4.5-5 miles, I was running under a 10 minute pace.  Even though I felt terrible the whole time!  I shuffled my way to finish 6 and told myself I could stop and get water before going out for mile 7.

So at 6, I stopped and guzzled some water at the water fountain and then went back out for a STRUGGLE mile.  It was brutal.  As slow and painful as that last mile was, this one felt even worse.  I managed to get myself to 6.65 and then I allowed myself to walk.  I've had a really long streak going of not walking during a run, no matter how hard I have wanted to.  But I was really concerned for my health.  My head felt so in the clouds.  I was afraid I was going to pass out.  It was almost 2pm, which is when the sun was the hottest and highest for the day and I was so unprepared and dehydrated on this run.  I walk/ran the last .35 miles, finishing RUNNING.  I always like to finish running, no matter what.  That was something that was important to me all the way back in the day when I did my first ever longer runs.


I tried so hard to keep my head in the game for the run Sunday, and I was mentally there, to be honest.  But my body was not with me.  Which is not an excuse, because that is my own fault.  But it was a challenging run.  I'm bummed I had to walk, but more mad at myself for just not planning better.  The situation could have been drastically avoided had I not felt over confident after the great week of workouts and had planned/prepared better.

I think I definitely learned my lesson.  Afterwards I refueled a ton, also buying some Powerade to get back any electrolytes I may need (I don't know if that's a myth or not, but I figured I'd try it.)  I also had told myself if I finished the run I could have a Starbucks Frappuccino, so I got that too.  And a sandwich at the deli because I didn't have the energy to make any food and knew I needed to refuel.

In the end, I probably didn't even need that 7 miles.  Which is stupid, because I could have done myself more harm than good by doing it.  However, I know myself, and I know that if I didn't do it, it would eat away at me for the rest of training.

For those of you who read through Paris Marathon training, you may recall that I never let go the fact that I ran every single mile of the training plan except for those TWO MILES when I was in Turkey!!  I can be a little crazy :)

Anyways, that was my week of training.  This week I am working on hydration, being prepared, and doing my best to get in cross training and all sorts of goodness even with a busy schedule.  Hope you had a good Monday!!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Living with psoriasis - my story.

So, for the past three years there has been something that I have never written about or even mentioned on this blog before.  Yet, it is something that has been a big issue in my life.  It is something that has honestly, been one of the biggest challenges in my life and I've never mentioned it before.  I've been too insecure.  Too scared.  Too embarrassed.  And it's been too emotional for me to ever write about and open up about.  No, it's not my hunt for prince charming (although, real life, where is he?) but it is my struggle with the skin condition psoriasis.

For as long as I can remember, I have had dry, scaley skin on my elbows.  I never thought much of it because a lot of people have dry elbows.  Also, they are elbows and not a part of my body that I think about all that much, unless I bang it into something and then I curse my elbow for a while and go back to not thinking about them ever.  It just wasn't a big deal.

An ex-boyfriend used to tell me to use this special soap for my elbows and to exfoliate with salt in the shower - he swore up and down it would help.  He was Persian and had someone bring the soap for me from Iran and gave it to me to use with the thing of salt I bought.  I used it a few times, then continually forgot, even though it was all sitting in my shower, something I used daily.  He'd always ask how it was going and if I was using it, and I always told him exactly that... "Oh... I forgot."

Again, it just wasn't a bit deal.  It wasn't something that I was thinking about.

About three years ago in the fall of 2012 I noticed a small red scaley spot on my right shin.  It didn't particularly hurt and I didn't particularly remember bumping or scraping myself there - but it was very visible and I had no idea what it was from.  I remember taking pictures and texting them to my mom.  The hypochondriac that I am, I don't let things like that go unnoticed.  I also didn't correlate it to my elbows or anything else.

It was a little while later that I noticed another small red patch on my legs, and I also had a dry scaley patch on my eyelid - which was also very concerning to me.  Thinking back now it is hard to remember the exact order that things occurred.  I look at pictures from when I did my first sprint triathlon in August 2012 and my legs look smooth and clear in every photo (I know its too far away for you to really see, but trust me, I zoomed in to check.)


But by the fall, it was enough to see a dermatologist and begin to ask questions as to what was going on with the small spots I had noticed.

I saw my first dermatologist in Albany and was told by the doctor there that it was likely psoriasis.  Psoriasis is a skin condition that causes skin cells to grow too quickly, building up in certain locations.  It is an auto-immune disorder and I was told by my dermatologist that there really was no treatment or much to be done beyond trying a few topical creams.  There was no way to know if it would go away or spread or anything like that.  Really, not much is known about what causes it or why it would just randomly appear out of nowhere.  I didn't have a ton of comfort in the visits.  But, great, I figured. At least it had a name and I was given a prescription for some cream to try.

I remember my first prescription for the topical and picking it up at the pharmacy.  It was a giant tub of lotion and it was about $400.  This stuff better work magically, I thought. But you know what, instead, it really didn't do anything at all.

However, at the time, the spots were still small and really it wasn't a huge deal.  A little scary and frustrating to have these spots on my legs, but it wasn't uncomfortable or at all severe and didn't seem to be expanding.  Until that Christmas 2012, I was home with my mom and doing some shopping and as I changed in the dressing room my mom pointed out another spot on my back that I hadn't noticed before.  I started crying out of frustration, wondering, is this going to get even worse??

Things remained somewhat manageable throughout the beginning of 2013.  However, then the spots began to increase in size on my legs, with that original one never going away.  I started to get a few others on my hips and on my chest.  But the main ones were on my legs, and they started to get larger and I started to get more self conscious about it.


I didn't want to wear dresses or skirts and spent the spring and summer of 2013 trying to find ways to not show off my legs and hide them from cameras or what was around.  I started to search more online trying to find out more about psoriasis.  I joined websites and chat groups trying to learn what had helped or worked for other people and in general, just started to get more overwhelmed and frightened with what was happening to my body.  As well as anything I read something online.

Instead of feeling comforted, I felt more overwhelmed.  People had horror stories and crazy remedies and mostly, everyone just talked about all the things that they were trying and NONE OF IT ever making it go away.  This really scared me.  This thing was only getting worse and I wasn't really sure what was going on.  Subtle things that nobody would have noticed but you can see looking back at pictures... when I ran my first half marathon in Nashville you can see my psoriasis on my legs.  It is also the first time in my life that I ever wore a maxi dress.  Because despite my body just accomplishing the biggest feat in its life and something that I worked harder for than anything else - I was ashamed.



Family and friends started to give me suggestions - aunts and uncles - telling me that they had experiences with psoriasis too.  And that sunlight helped.  Or that it would go away when they were on vacation.  Everyone kept telling me that they had psoriasis "flare ups" as well, but the thing with mine was that it never went away.  Only expanded.  When was I going to "flare down?"  Nothing that seemed to have any luck for others I knew, or their experiences, seemed to relate to me at all.  I connected more with the sad people on the internet chat rooms wondering if ANYTHING would ever work.

Another friend of mine brought back a tiny vial of a psoriasis medicine that she had been given when she was traveling in Indonesia.  This tiny bit of lotion was the only thing that cleared my skin up - only when paired with another technique I'd read online of wrapping the affected area in Saran Wrap overnight.  So literally, every night I would go through the routine of applying the lotion and then wrapping Saran Wrap around both my calves before going to sleep.  Whatever worked though.

Then, once the lotion was done, the psoriasis returned in the exact same locations.  At this point I had tried a number of topical medications -- I was still seeing dermatologists in Albany and trying various prescription topical lotions, as well as over the counter ones I read about and nothing ever did anything besides cost me hundreds and hundreds of dollars.  And to this day, that weird Indonesian stuff is the only thing that has cleared my skin, even just temporarily.

I sort of got it in my mind somewhere during the summer of 2013 that maybe the psoriasis could be related to gluten.  Psoriasis is a genetic auto-immune disorder, yet neither of my parents experienced it.  However, a different auto-immune disorder runs in my family as my sister has had Celiac disease, making her intolerant of gluten.  Neither of our parents have any problems with gluten either.  So, in my head, I thought maybe they were related and that the psoriasis was my body reacting to, and fighting off, the gluten I was consuming.  It didn't account for why it just appeared out of nowhere at the age of 26, but still, made sense in my head.  I decided to try and go gluten free.  Unfortunately, it didn't make enough sense in my head to last forever and after about two weeks and being faced with some pasta, I caved.

So, I just wore that maxi dress all over the place that spring and summer.  But the psoriasis was still there.  You can see it on my legs and even all over my face around my hair line in these pictures from the 2013 Fronhofer's Sprint Triathlon.



The psoriasis on my face and on my hair line was really hard.  My earlobes were scaled and bloody most of the time.  My forehead, hairline, nose, eyelids, and scalp were all covered as well.  I stopped wearing black because the psoriasis was essentially looking like dandruff on all of my clothing. My hair dresser told me my hair was thinning due to it and gave (sold) me shampoo to try.

I obsessed over pictures.  I cringed at the sight of my psoriasis on my legs.  And I began to invest heavily in makeup.   I have never been a makeup wearer.  I have been fortunate and blessed my whole life to have very clear skin.  I get occasional pimples but never had challenges with acne or other skin problems throughout adolescence.  In fact, my skin was always the ONE thing I prided in myself.  Through with all of my struggles with my weight and self confidence issues.  Even when I was never the skinniest, or the curviest, or had the best hair anything like that. I always had naturally clear, smooth, soft skin and rosy cheeks.  I never wore makeup beyond eyeliner and mascara for the most part.  Nor did I have any interest.

Yet I started to spend hours at Macy's and Sephora consulting with the different makeup brands and styles and trying different things out with the makeup artists there.  I ended up purchasing Kat Von D tattoo coverup as makeup to use on my legs and face to cover up the red patches.  I was also given a powder to seal it in, but later learned that this powder cause incredible glare and reflection in photos so stopped using that.  I know these pictures aren't the best but you can see the glare from where I have the makeup on in the pictures below, on my cheeks and shin of my legs.



I invested a lot in maxi dresses and many pictures from this point on, I am always in a long dress.  "Trauma" or nicks/cuts/wounds can be a catalyst for psoriasis, so any nicks or cuts on my legs from shaving turned into bigger spots.  I started to look into laser hair removal to see if that would be an option for me so I wouldn't have to shave anymore or worry about that.

The irony of it all was so hard on me.  The fact that my skin, had been my one thing I felt happy with in myself, throughout years of being unhappy with my weight -- was now falling apart of me, just in the years that I had gotten my weight under control.

In December 2013 things really got our of control.  In early December, as I just started training for the Paris Marathon, I came down with strep throat.  And wouldn't you know it, strep throat is another catalyst, or instigator, for psoriasis.

In mid-December 2013, the psoriasis pretty much completely covered my body.  My entire back, stomach, and chest became covered with red psoriasis spots.  My strep throat cleared, but the flare up remained, as well as the spots that had been covering my legs for over a year at this point and never gone away.

I became incredibly unhappy at this point.  I was depressed and desperate for a remedy to the situation with my skin.  I would wrap my ENTIRE body in saran wrap before going to bed at night.  My calves, thighs, arms, etc. -- as much as I could cover until I was a clingy, cocooned mummy.  I remember sleeping over at my friend KO's on New Years Eve and her and I buzzed off of champagne and a night of No Pudge Brownies, giggling as she helping me wrap my whole body up in the saran wrap before going to bed.

I was running a lot and showering in the locker room at work.  I was embarrassed for people to see my skin this way even if they were just other females.  And as for dating?  I completely lost interest in attempting to date because the thought of getting closer with someone and them seeing my skin like this, was too much.  I was so self conscious of this red, scaley, flakey grossness that had taken over on my formerly smooth, clear skin.

My trips to the dermatologist increased as well as the amount of money that I was spending on treatments.  Also, as of January 1, 2014, I decided to go back again and try the gluten free potential solution.  I was willing to give ANYTHING a try at this point.  I went completely gluten free and also scheduled an appointment with a doctor to get tested for Celiac disease to see if my personal hypothesis worked.  The test came back negative but I continued a gluten free diet for two months in January and February of last year to see if it had any impact on my skin.

It did not.

I tried other home remedies and over-the-counter solutions I read about or was recommended.  I tried eating organic foods.  I cut soda.  I tried black tar soap.  I tried witch hazel.  Tea tree oil.  All natural products.  I tried mineral water baths.  I found a lotion at the Detroit Airport that I was convinced was helping and called them up and had them ship me a case to continue to use it.  None of it worked.  Nor did the doctor prescribed solutions such as UV light treatments therapy I began trying at another dermatologists office 2x a week.  Nor did the many prescription topical lotions I paid hundreds and hundreds of dollars for by doctors.

I also tried a heavier dose of a topical type medication from the doctors that actually was in a spray format.  It was so strong I was not allowed to rub it in with my hands and had to let it dry on me and then wash my hands anyways.  I had to be so careful about getting in my eyes and only spraying a small amount on my skin.  This treatment actually did have a bit of an effect and began to clear my skin, but one of the side effects of clearing up the red patches was having very, very thin dry skin everywhere else and my skin and hands would crack, cut, and hurt painfully.  I just could not handle that on my hands and everywhere else so I stopped that medication.

I started to see different doctors to explore options beyond the light treatments and topical lotions - more intense treatments like injectibles and methodextrate, a mild form of chemotherapy.  The dermatologist I had been seeing did not prescribe those types of treatments so I needed to see a third dermatologist in Albany.  I cried a lot in doctors offices and elsewhere trying to figure out what I should do about my skin.  And beyond that, psoriasis can often lead to arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis so many of the doctors asked me about my joints - were my knees hurting me?  And my answer, well, yes, at times. But I am training for a marathon, I always attributed any pain to that!  I began to become concerned that the problem was spreading beyond just my skin.

I continued to avoid dating.  And as soon as I found out that winter that the bridesmaid dress for my friend's wedding in August was going to be a short dress, I stressed about what I would do and how I would look terrible in the photos with red patches all over my legs and back.

When I was in Paris for the marathon with Jess, I remember one night talking with her and she showed me the Dermablend makeup campaign "Camo Confessions" where women revealed their skin challenges that they hid behind makeup and were ashamed of.  We talked about if I should write about my psoriasis on my blog.  And I said no.  Not now.

You can see it on my legs clearly in my marathon finisher pic and as I lay on the wall with my legs in the air after the race back at our AirBnB place. [Side note: this day, is still one of the happiest most amazing days of my life.  I cannot think about April 6, 2014 without getting emotional or teary eyed or without a huge smile.  This picture is pure emotion, despite psoriasis or not]



Anyways, me not writing about psoriasis on the blog is a scenario where the blog is not always "real life" as every one of my close family and friends in the real world knew about the issues I was having with psoriasis as it was a major challenge in my life.  I wasn't ready yet to share it with the broader world and still avoided pictures showing my psoriasis.  I was ashamed, embarrassed, self conscious, and partially probably in denial.  I continued to just avoid showing pictures or ever talking about the subject.  It made me depressed and unhappy to think about and this blog has always been a mostly positive space for me.  I was mostly just scared though.

In about July of 2014, I finally felt like it was time to try the injectable medications.  I was not living the life that I should because of the psoriasis.  Every time I got dressed or went to bed I thought of it.  My month in Europe was horrible for my skin.  I don't know if it was the water or something but I was itchy, uncomfortable and in pain.  And no, for the most part it is not a super painful thing. However, it is dry and it itches and cracks and burns and stings and can be extremely uncomfortable and at times painful.  I also, really wanted to have clear skin for my friend's wedding in August.

So I saw more doctors, but at the same time I was finalizing accepting a new job and moving to Atlanta so, unfortunately, I didn't have enough time nor did it make sense to start the treatments at that time.  Injectable medications are given via shots.  Shots that you have to give to yourself.  And are also the medications that you see the ads for on TV or in magazines with two full pages of fine print detailing the side effects and potential damages it can be causing elsewhere in your body to try.

And one of the other dynamics at play for me throughout this whole time - was guilt.  Guilt that I was so upset, challenged, and held so much anger about psoriasis.  In the grand scheme of things - it is unappealing to the eyes and it is uncomfortable to me.  That's it though.  It is not life threatening, it does not, physically, handicap me from doing the things I wanted to do, and it was not majorly debilitating.  I first, appreciated that SO MUCH.  Things could be SO MUCH worse for me if it were a different type of disease I were dealing with.  I know that and I am thankful for my health every day.  I felt guilt for having such a hard time with this, on top of the other things.

My friend's wedding came and I covered my legs in makeup.  I cried the morning of the wedding trying to cover up my skin as best as possible and getting frustrated.  I didn't want to be dealing with this on a beautiful, happy day for my friend.  However, it turned out okay.  And following the wedding, things changed a bit as well when I started dating someone that August.

It was the first person I had let myself get close to since my skin problems had become major.  In fact, I specifically remember one of the turning points in me falling for him was when over Google Chat (we were long distance) I told him about my shame and embarrassment and fear over my skin and how I was afraid of what his reaction would be to seeing the grossness of it.  I cried at my desk at work as he said all of the right things to put my mind at ease.  It was a really big moment for me.

With more support, as I moved to Atlanta, one of the first things I did was find a dermatologist here.  I loved the new doctor I was seeing.  She made me feel comfortable, like I had options, and like I would be okay.  She recommended I try the injectables and I was ready for it, beginning that process to submit them to the insurance companies.  It was a huge mental step for me to say yes as it was something I was avoiding for about 2 years at that point.

The next few months were spent with my skin remaining the same... painful at times, itchy, dry, and covered in red, scaley patches.  But I also had to deal with fighting with insurance companies.  My dermatologist and I in Atlanta had reviewed the pros and cons of a number of the different types of medications and decided upon the best route forward.  The injectables are a very expensive medication to prescribe, and when it went through the insurance agency, I was denied coverage by my insurance company for the medication I wanted to try.  I now know that this is common for many people but I was livid.  How dare some random person at a desk, who knows nothing of me or my condition, have ANY say in how I treat it?  The insurance company said that they would not approve the medication my doctor and I wanted me on until I had tried one other different (cheaper) type of injectable medication.  Since I had tried topicals, light treatment, and various other options previously they would approve this other type of injectable, that actually required more shots to be given to ones self than the one we had originally selected.

There was a lot more tears and anger and frustration through the months of figuring it out with the doctors and insurance company and finally in January 2015 I was approved to begin treatment.

However, over the month of December 2014, something really incredible happened and my skin started to clear up a bit.  I don't know why or how, but I was using witch hazel and taking a nightly bath of at least 15 minutes in epsom salt.  Yes, every night a bath, where I would try to soak my whole body in the epsom salt water.  This was another treatment I had read about online and wanted to try.

I'm not sure what it was but by mid-January when the first shots arrived in the mail, my skin was in better shape than it had been in years.

I felt a bit confused wondering what to do - I had gone so far to get to the point of having these shots in my hand to treat myself and didn't know if I should wait out whatever was happening or go for it.  I decided to go for it (with doctor discussion, of course) and from January to March I began giving myself shots with the hope of clearing my skin further.

And whether it was the injectable or the combination of whatever I was doing before, my skin stayed clear for a bit.  It was amazing and wonderful.  My legs still had outlines of where the major spots had been, but it was clear.  I felt so good about it.  I was thrilled.  Here is a picture of me, happy and carefree in Nigeria, learning how to do some of the traditional Nigerian dances.


Anyways, the happiness and clear skin was short lived as it was less than a month after that when everything came back.  I must say though, I was incredibly thankful to have had the clear skin during runcation.  I don't know if I would have even gotten into a bathing suit with so many people I did not know well if my skin looked like it does today.  I told you recently I would show you a pic of my tanline?  Well, I never posted because I realized my towel was not pulled up enough to cover where the psoriasis on my back begins.  Besides that, I actually thought I'd looked pretty cute.


And honestly, I think that exercise makes it worse.  I don't think that sweaty sports bras and tight damp clothing that sticks to my body is good for it.  It was the worst it has been during marathon training and cleared up when my exercise schedule was slower, then built back up as I began exercising more.  I do see a pattern, more than anything else, in the severity in relation to my exercise routines.  However, if exercise is a catalyst... I am just going to have to learn to live with this even further.

My skin, right now, is pretty bad.  In coverage, severity, and comfort.  However, without getting into detail, I will say that the majority of the spots I have now are not in parts of my body that you see every day (my chest, upper legs, stomach, hips, and butt.)  It is gross.  It is gross to have your skin fall off everywhere.  It hurts to have your skin crack and be brittle.  It is embarrassing to notice people's eyes dart down to your legs or elbows whether or not they say anything.  And it is exhausting to have to explain over and over when people ask, "What happened to your elbows??  Did you scrape your legs?  Fall off your bike?"

Nope.  This is just my skin.

And frankly, I'm exhausted with it all.  I'm exhausted by covering everything up with makeup.  I'm exhausted by caring.  I'm exhausted by researching and trying new solutions.  I HATE my psoriasis so much.  But I don't know what to do.  I don't know what to do anymore at all.

And truthfully, I'm not sure what changed and made me want to post about this now.  I am not sure what brought me over the edge.  Maybe it was those couple months when I felt the weight had been lifted off of me and my skin was clear.  Maybe it was the experience of dating someone who accepted me and didn't see my skin as gross as I saw it on myself and truly only cared if I was comfortable in my own skin (pun intended, and also, we since broke up but it was still a positive experience for that and other reasons.)  Maybe I am just getting older.

But somehow over the past week I was inspired to write this post.  I've been working on it for the past few nights and drafting more of it in my mind as the days have gone on.  It's actually felt good to get it typed up and written.  A relief in a way.  I don't have the weight of the psoriasis off my chest (pun intended) but at least the weight of the shame and the secrets I would like to move on from.  I want to be in the clear (so many puns.)  I don't want to have to sensor pictures.  Although, truthfully, I've gotten pretty good at knowing how to configure my body, which side to stand on in pictures, and how to cross/cover my legs to hide my psoriasis.

Either way.  Cat's outta the bag.  I have psoriasis.  I hate it.  I have tried most all things I can think of.  Maybe I will go back to the injectables again.  Or maybe I will spend more time in the bathtub, although that's a lot less appealing in the summer.  But whatever I do - I will try and share more about it here.  I hope that with a lot of what I write, I just find someone out there, whether its someone I know and who is feeling the same way about something - or someone I don't know - I just hope to connect with people.  And maybe by sharing my story with psoriasis it will help someone else feel a little better about something going on with them.

And as I mentioned - I am thankful for my health every day.  For my ability to exercise, feel strong, take care of myself, and do things that make me happy.  I am proud of my body on a near daily basis.  I know in the grand scheme of diseases and where they rank on the severity/life-inhibiting scale, I'm way down at the bottom.  I know that.  But this has also been an incredibly scary process for me.  I didn't understand (and don't) why now?  How did this just happen?  How is this not an indicator of something more severe going on in my body?  Why can't anyone give me an explanation why this was not an issue one day and then just became an issue the next?

That, more than anything scares me.  The fact that diseases and changes in your body can appear seemingly overnight.  That doctors can be unable to find a solution or give satisfying responses.  That treatments can not work.  That your body can fight against you and attack you, rather than all being a part of the same team.  This has all scared the crap out of me over the past years and been a big lesson for me.  My main reason for writing this post is really to just get it off my chest and not have it be "a thing" anymore.  I recently read an amazing book called Daring Greatly by Brene Brown and it talks about the feelings of vulnerability and also of shame.  One of the things she says about shame is that it cannot survive being spoken.  Shame is made up of fear that we are not worthy or not enough or not capable.  But when you speak of shame, it cannot own or control you any more.  So here is me speaking.  And to hopefully letting go of some of that shame.


In typical fashion I haven't edited all of this, but it is getting late and I am trying to get better at going to bed on time so I am going to just click "Publish" and dart away.  Thank you for reading and being a part of my community, virtual or real life.  I appreciate all of you for taking time out of your days to read the words I type into sentences and share with you here.  It means a lot even if I don't even know you're there.  Thank you.

Happy Thursday everyone!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

What I Ate Wednesday: Tuesday edition

For those of you who read this blog and no other food blogs (hi Grampy!) you may not be familiar with "What I Ate Wednesday" which is a series many bloggers do, sharing what they eat in a typical day.  I have never really done one of these before.  If I did, I probably forgot about it and it was so long ago because of it, but anyways, I decided to share a day in my eating plan this Wednesday.  Mainly because I took a picture of all my snacks and I usually eat all my food before I take pictures. Although the post is called "What I ate WEDNESDAY" this is actually what I ate on Tuesday.  Deal with it.

I generally do not eat a breakfast before my morning workouts.  Unless it is something really really hard or I wake up starving, I am pretty okay working out on an empty stomach.  For example, I ate breakfast before going to my 7:00 am run on Sunday morning of 10 miles but this week I did not eat anything before heading out of the house to do my morning workout.

I swam for 30 minutes in the pool at the gym at an easy pace, finishing 1500 meters, before showering and heading into the office arriving at 8:15 a.m.  When I arrive, I unpack my lunch box taking the things that don't need to be refridgerated to my desk and leaving everything else in my lunch box.  I didn't take pictures of EVERY individual thing, but pretty much this is what I ate all day.


At 8:30 a.m. I had some cut up strawberries, raspberries, 1 cup of multigrain cheerios, and 1 cup of skim milk along with some vanilla bean flavored coffee that I have with just skim milk in it.  Oh and I started downing my water.


At 10:30 a.m. I had a snack of an apple.

At Noon I had my lunch of the quinoa salad I made over the weekend.  This picture pretty much sums it up but I also had my serving with a quarter of an avocado chopped up on top.  The quinoa salad is made up of quinoa, cooked mushrooms and onions, and then tomato and cucumber just chunked up, shredded carrots, goat cheese and then the avocado on top.  I think if I made it again, which I probably will, I will just keep things seperate before adding them all together.  The goat cheese sort of melted into the salad because the quinoa was still warm and the cucumbers have gotten a little bit mushy and are letting off some moisture which is making it a little unappealing to look at, although still very delicious.


12:30 p.m.  I also had 2 caramel rice cakes that I keep in my drawer at work so they weren't pictured above.

2:00 p.m.  Bag of green beans.

3:00 p.m.  Two hard boiled eggs - just the whites!  And some green tea.

4:00 p.m.   Bag of grapes

5:00 p.m.  As I am driving to my run workout I ate a Quest Chocolate Chunk bar in the car on the way there.  I love these things.

8:30 p.m.  When I got home I made a smoothie, that I forgot to take a picture of that consisted of 1 frozen banana, some frozen peach, strawberry and blueberry blend, 1 cup of unsweetened vanilla almond milk, and 1 scoop of vanilla protein powder.

9:00 p.m.  I air popped a bit of popcorn that I ate with salt and some spray butter.  Also lots of water.  But that was all day long.


And that's my "What I Ate Wednesday" for you guys!  If you are interested in the Weight Watchers points breakdown, let me know and I'm happy to write it out for you.  I just assumed most people didn't care here.  Happy Hump Day everyone!