None of this is related, but it is all related

I made a huge mistake yesterday. 

Well, I tend to be making a lot of mistakes lately, but this one has already been detrimental. I took a picture of myself, which sounds totally harmless, but it 100 percent confirmed my suspicions: I am uncomfortable in my own skin lately because my body has changed.

It is... not good. 

Last May, before beginning a clean-eating challenge, I snapped some "before" photos. Turns out I never snapped "after" photos, but I did spend a lot of time analyzing every single inch of my bikini-clad body, generally disgusted. Yesterday, against every ounce of my better judgement, I put on the same bikini and snapped identical photos.

The result: GODDAMMIT

And no, I absolutely will not share the photos here. Not for one million dollars. OK, maybe for one million dollars, but doubtful.

I want my original "before" body back. Why did I hate my body then? Because if my body then could look at my body now, it'd be cowering in the corner wishing it could disappear. Much in the way I am today. 

The difference -- and not a good difference -- is noticeable. For the first time, other than scoffing at the number on the scale and feeling a smidge uncomfortable in last spring's clothing, I have actual, physical proof of my downfall. 

I don't even know what to do with this information other than feel sick about it. Because until now, I could just imagine it's all in my head. That my running is fine, my body is fine, my eating is fine, my adjustment to Bend is FINE. 

IT IS NOT FINE. 

The problem is, last year at the time of that photo, my diet was crap. My running was strong as hell, but my nutrition? A JOKE. Today, my diet is significantly cleaned up, but my running has suffered and I've become a slave to the snack drawer at work. I'm currently shoving roasted veggies and quinoa into my face as a way to keep my hands out of the candy in the room next door. 

But the candy in the room next door is good, and my job has been stressful, and life has been difficult, and my running has been weak because, for those not keeping track at home, I just recently recovered from a broken hand and am now sidelined by a strained groin. I literally can't even stand on my own two feet without damaging something. 

I feel like a mess. It is possible I am a mess.

I miss having people. My people. A best friend that I can cry to or run with while crying (yup, totally happens). Someone who gets me and knows me and doesn't judge me. I want to belong somewhere, rather than just sort of fitting in here and there. Bend is full of good people, and I've made some great friends, and I know it'll take time to feel settled, but I'm feeling a little lost and impatient and my jeans are a little too snug and none of this is related, but all of it is related, and I just needed to vent, OK? 

I miss venting over coffee and peanut butter toast with my best friend on a Sunday morning. What if I just become this weird, lonely, sad person with terrible running luck that no one wants to be around because all I do is break body parts and run too slow?

By 11 p.m. on Friday night, my feet will be on solid Wisconsin ground, and I'll have a full week to soak up every ounce of love that's been waiting for me. Enough to fill my camel hump and remind me that I am actually a good, strong, worthwhile person who deserves love and friendship and to fit into last summer's running shorts with ease. 

I'm totally going to shrivel and die without Luna and Chicken for 11 days, but at least I know I'll come home to 11 days' worth of love when I get back. And those fucking running shorts.

File this under: Things I Write While Having a Bad Day, and tuck it deep into the archives. I'll write more another day when I've had more coffee and less strained groin.

Flying with my own arms: MS Run the US

One month from today I'll be wrapping up my six-day running journey from Vernal, Utah, to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. IT WILL ALL BE OVER, which seems impossible to wrap my mind around.

The day I accepted my invitation to the team, July 29, 2015

The day I accepted my invitation to the team, July 29, 2015

Last summer the seed was planted in my mind to join the MS Run the US relay team. The $10,000 fundraising limit scared the shit out of me, more so than the idea of running a marathon a day for six days. More than that. I'll have to cover nearly 28 miles a day for six days to complete my segment of the relay. 

Ten-thousand dollars is so very much money. I hemmed and hawed for weeks about the decision, having conversation after conversation with my friend Ashley, who founded the organization. If there's one thing to say about Ashley, it's that that girl can convince you you're invincible. I'm 96 percent certain she could convince me to fly with my own arms. I'd try it, too, and I'd probably fly because she's always right.

That girl's powerful. 

Me and Ashley, September 2014

Me and Ashley, September 2014

To be honest, it didn't take a whole lot of convincing. A week away in some beautiful part of the country, camped out in an RV with a crew on hand to take care of your needs and become your family, running miles and miles every day -- it's not a terrible gig. Year after year I watched the relay make its way across the country, and year after year I wanted to try it so badly. 

But TEN-THOUSAND DOLLARS.

But it's for a good cause, Krista. Proceeds benefit research and programs for multiple sclerosis. 

I tried to wrap my mind around what that meant. I knew no one with MS, aside from Ashley's mom, Jill, the catalyst of MS Run the US. I adore Jill, but did it matter that I didn't have a personal connection to MS? 

L to R: Nikki, Rachel, Jill, me at the Brewers Mini Marathon, September 2015

L to R: Nikki, Rachel, Jill, me at the Brewers Mini Marathon, September 2015

Obviously it doesn't. But I tried to find every reason why raising $10,000 for MS research would be impossible. 

Turns out it isn't impossible at all.

On July 30, 2015, I opened my fundraising website. My own $25 kicked things off. Within one day, the amazing people of the internet (bless you, Facebook and Twitter) brought my fundraising total to $1,000. 

On March 26, 2016, exactly 241 days after I began pleading to friends, family, colleagues and strangers for money, I hit $10,000. 

I RAISED TEN-THOUSAND DOLLARS.

That afternoon, I sat in my car after a long run, grinning ear-to-ear as donations poured in from friends, amazed by the sense of relief I felt now that the fundraising burden had been lifted. But also amazed at myself for accomplishing something so huge. 

I asked. I tweeted. I shared photos on Instagram. I slammed my Facebook wall. My parents slammed their Facebook walls, as did my friends. I hosted a (surprisingly successful) fundraiser. I asked some more. And it all worked. 

I said from day one that more than running 165 miles, I'd be most proud of raising $10,000 for MS research. So far, it's not a lie. That said, I haven't run the 165 miles yet, but there's something so fulfilling about fundraising. I know that I can run. I don't know that I can raise money. 

But I did.

The one thing I didn't do all this time was plaster my blog with donation asks, which was hard to do. I mean, sure, there's a link to the fundraising page on the sidebar, but I mostly wanted to save this space for something more genuine. To be able to share this part of the journey without needing anything in return.

Don't get me wrong, people. I will surely continue to take your donations, it's just that now there isn't a deadline or a goal looming over my head. Now it's just pure joy and excitement. 

Part of my role as a relay runner, though, is to serve as an ambassador for the program. Well, I ambassador'd the hell out of the rest of social media, so I saved my blog for the story. You know me and stories. LOVE THEM.

And in a month, I'll have so many stories to tell.

My home for six days from Vernal, Utah, to Steamboat Springs, Colorado

My home for six days from Vernal, Utah, to Steamboat Springs, Colorado

I heard from more than one former relay runner that the experience changed their life. That's seems clichĂ©, doesn't it? But how can it not change your life? It's that nugget of information that's stuck with me from the moment I first hemmed and hawed about joining the relay. 

You're out there in the middle of nowhere, on the side of a road, surrounded by nothing and everything and all things beautiful, you're tired and sore, and you just have to keep going because out there -- somewhere in that great, big world -- someone else can't. You're stuck in your own mind for six days, with nothing to worry about but taking another step.

I predict I will cry no less than five times throughout the duration of six days and 165 miles. After all, that's what I do -- I cry. 

I CAN'T WAIT. 

I want to feel everything and see everything and experience everything. I waited a long time and raised a lot of money to be able to do those things. 

So on May 15, I'll pack my things and start heading to Utah. I'll run my first step on May 17 and run into Steamboat Springs 165 miles later on May 22. I bet I could fly there with my own arms because someone once convinced me I could do anything.

And you're damn right I'll be tweeting about it. And posting photos. And surely a third of my friends will hide my Facebook feed. But that's OK because what did you do today to make a difference in someone's life?

Bodies are hard, man

I've had a very fragile relationship with running for the last three months. It mostly all boils down to a really fragile relationship with myself, I suppose. 

Thanksgiving. That's exactly when it started. I remember. I came home that night -- after an amazing day of eating and laughter with a friend's family -- feeling more stuffed than I've ever felt. Just uncomfortable. That started the downward spiral of stepping on the scale every day and stepping off angry. 

A few weeks later, I moved home with my parents for a month before venturing to Bend. Adding two hours of commuting to my weekdays all but killed by running mojo. Couple that with the holidays and the stress of packing up and moving 2,000 miles away, and basically my body became a wasteland.

I felt like shit. I looked like shit. My running was shit. I became shit. 

Then I moved to Bend. 

My first couple weeks here were ugly. Literally. The dry air wreaked havoc on my skin. I was bloated. I was tired as hell. I spent a week eating junk before fully settling into routine. Running was a struggle -- the elevation, the trails, the sluggishness. I became so wildly outside of my comfort zone, and here I sit. 

I FEEL SO UNCOMFORTABLE. Everything feels a little more snug than it used to. My running is significantly less strong. My quick paces don't hold. My shorts feel uncomfortable. Where my arms used to feel toned, they now just... are there. 

I literally could not feel more vain or self-absorbed right now. I never used to be the person who fretted so heavily over this shit. I was in the best shape of my life before the Boston Marathon last year. I see it in photos. Then I scroll back to photos that are a few years older, a few pounds fluffier, and I see me... NOW. 

I hate it. 

Mostly I hate it because it all started last summer after I took part in a clean-eating cleanse challenge. As much as it helped me clean up my eating habits and have a better understanding of what my body needs to feel good, it destroyed my mind. DESTROYED.

That is when I started paying attention to the scale. That is when I started noticing the changes in my body -- both good and bad. When the changes were bad, welp, it must have been that pizza, huh? I probably shouldn't eat that white bread. I could eat that ice cream, but I'll get bloated, the scale will be heavier tomorrow, and I'll regret it. 

All the good the challenge did was reversed as soon as I started to slide. As soon as the scale crept back up. As soon as I stopped eating perfectly well-balanced meals. As soon as my abs began looking a lot less defined. 

It's not that I don't want to eat perfectly well-balanced meals. I felt good. It was good for me. But I get mad at myself when I slip. I fall hard off the wagon, care more than I should, continue to stalk the numbers on the scale, watch my body morph into whatever it's becoming, and feel it all come together when I try to run. 

It all materializes for me every time I put on my running shoes. 

Would I feel better if I hadn't taken such poor care of myself the last three months? If I hadn't eaten so much on Thanksgiving? If I didn't spend the entire fall as a giant ball of stress? If I'd kept up with healthy habits and cross training? If if if if if if if if if if.

Every time I struggle during a run, I wonder, what if I never feel good about my body again?

But then I think, what if I just shut the hell up and be kinder to myself?

In the last six months, I said goodbye to a home, to my normal life, to my friends, to my family, to routine, to comfort, to normal. I threw all my normal into the breeze and let it scatter around so I could pick it all up and craft a new normal. An exciting normal. Brand new, happy normals. 

I guess I can't expect for my mind and body to follow suit and immediately put themselves back together where they belong. But could they hurry up?

This me that nitpicks every inch of her body isn't me. This body isn't mine. Even if this body never changes, the way I feel about it isn't me. It's been good to me. It's done all the awesome things. It's got a lot more awesome things to do. 

Why the hell do we care so much about how our bodies look rather than what our bodies are capable of doing? Sure, my body sure as hell isn't capable of running a 3:29 marathon right now, but it did just run 26 miles last Saturday. I just tackled it a little differently. 

It's got a little work to do. It'll get there. And if it doesn't, we shall revisit this topic at a later date. 

Until then, I WILL BE NICE TO ME. Probably.