Friday, July 2, 2010


So I'm officially addicted to long-distance running now. Finishing the half-marathon this past Sunday taught me a very important lesson. It taught me that I can do anything I set my mind to despite living with Crohn's disease. All throughout training I was dealing with what's been one long and extended relapse. Either I was on the toilet or on prednisone, both of which are not conducive to training for a half-marathon. Because of this I wasn't really even able to train very much. Some weeks I was only able to get in one run, the team run. But regardless, I was able to finish the race within my goal of 1:45 coming in at 1:40:29.

Now I'm training for my first-ever marathon. That's right, 26.2 miles. I'm currently registered for the BayState Marathon held in Lowell, MA on October 17. So right now I have about 16 weeks of training (I think) left until race day. Even though this will be my first half-marathon, I'm going to try to qualify for the Boston Marathon. I know it's not really the best idea to set a goal time for yourself for any kind of race, but the race at 13.1 Boston got me thinking. For starters, I finished with a 7:41 pace which is pretty good. I would need a 7:15 pace to qualify for Boston. But if I think about it, the 13.1 Boston half-marathon course was essentially all hills. Anyone that ran that course can tell you that. Also, it was a learning experience training whileI was learning about all of the side effects of prednisone and how to use vitamin supplements to my advantage to prevent injuries. So now I'm tapering off my prednisone (hooray!) and I have 16 weeks left to train. I think I'm in pretty good shape to reach that 7:15 pace, especially considering how flat the BayState Marathon course is going to be.

BayState Marathon elevation map. There's maybe a change in like 40 feet during the length of the course. Awesome.

But I won't be running the marathon alone. My buddy from college will be running the half-marathon the same day, and some members of Team Challenge are going to be there! I'm pumped. So I figure I'll actually keep making fairly regular posts about living and training for a marathon with Crohn's. So check back every now and then for updates!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

13.1 Boston - race day recap!

Can we just say amazing? I think we can.

Yesterday afternoon I checked into the hotel and met up with all the fantastic members of Team Challenge New England (what what!) for a quick meeting before heading off to the inspirational pasta party. Man alive did that dinner get me psyched. Not only with all the pep talk, screaming, and cheering (and Team New England dominating, no big deal), but everything we've worked toward all season long was summed up in Mary Beth's inspirational speech. It was so moving it brought tears to my eyes. Maybe it was being able to totally relate to her or maybe it was my emotions going haywire because of the prednisone, but everything she talked about really hit home with me. Each and everyone of us suffering from Crohn's or colitis can tell you the date their life changed when they were diagnosed, list all the medications they're on, give details of their flare-ups, and so on. And sure enough we've all had our private embarrassing moments. Either way, everyone running or walking has either been there or has known someone who's been there. We're all in this together, and together we'll find a cure.

That night I wrote down all the names of everyone that donated. It was humbling to see everyone that contributed. Friends, family, everyone. Now get ready for some numbers. Together we raised $2,294 for the CCFA to go toward research for Crohn's and colitis! Team Challenge New England raised around $380,000! And, as a whole, Team Challenge on a national level raised over $1,800,000! That's right, $1,800,000! Incredible!

Thanks to all my supporters! You guys are the best!

I was so pumped and ready to go that I couldn't fall asleep. I think I finally passed out around 1:00am, which is pretty late considering not only would I be running 13.1 miles in the morning but we were all waking up at 4:00am to get ready. Regardless, 3 hours of sleep was all I needed. I had a solid night's sleep two nights before (which is actually more important), so I wasn't worried. When I woke up I got dressed, threw on my orange Team Challenge shirt, pounded a few slices of bread to the face, and was out the door ready to go. We got to the race course where music was blasting and thousands of racers were getting ready. It finally started going through my head that this was it. In less than an hour I'd be running 13.1 miles, which would be the farthest I've ever run before. But luckily I had Team Challenge teammates with me to be there every step of the way!

We lined up at the start according to pace, and I thought I'd shoot for the front of the 8-minute mile pack. I could do that, why not? I've been feeling good, pounding calcium supplements to combat the side effects of the prednisone, so I decided to go for it. I lined up with my Team Challenge New England buddies Nate and Chris. I knew from all the training runs that they were fast, but whatever I figured I could keep up.

Then there was the countdown from 10.

10, 9,... Oh God what did I get myself into?... 8, 7, 6,... 13.1 miles? Seriously? And it's hilly... 5, 4,... You know what? I got this. Piece of cake... 3, 2, 1, GO!

We took off, all 2,679 of us, to tackle the hilly 13.1 miles of the Inaugural 13.1 Boston in the Blue Hills. First thoughts: "This is awesome!" I was pumped, running alongside my Team Challenge family and getting started on everything we for which we trained. The next thing I know we're passing the 1-mile mark and I was right on my target pace of 8:00. Perfect. I knew I could hold that pace. My breathing was good and steady, and my body was feeling solid. The 2-mile mark came and went. I thought to myself, already? Really? And faster than an 8-minute pace? Sure I'll take that, especially before the hills really kick in!

We then came to the first of two out-and-back sections of the race, and it was awesome to see Eric completely destroying the course as he passed by me in the other direction. It was also awesome to be running back and seeing all the orange of the hundreds of members of Team Challenge! Also seeing my brother running in general was pretty entertaining. I was alternating water and Gatorade at each of the water tables, as the sugar kept me going and the water kept me hydrated. Up the hill to mile 5 and we were treated to one of the best views of the Boston skyline the Blue Hills have to offer. Down the hill we went for mile 6, turned around to come back up the hill to mile 7. Mile 7, just over halfway. I was stunned. 7 miles down, I was feeling great, and I was roughly 3:00 ahead of my 8-minute pace. I pounded a GU to the face, and the burst of sugar gave me a much-welcomed second wind before the caffeine kicked in. Miles 7 through 10 were all a nice downhill, but there was a catch. At mile 10 we'd start a serious climb over 1.5 miles.

13.1 Boston course elevation map. Yeah, check out that hill right around mile 10. Ridiculous.

It was exhausting to say the least, and I knew I just had to keep running and power through it. I reflected on how I've been through so much pain and agony with my Crohn's, and that this was nothing in comparison. This thought alone motivated me through that long uphill stretch. When I reached the top I felt like a champ! Only a little over 1-mile left! I couldn't believe it! I was really doing it! Soon I'd be crossing that finish line in my first half-marathon!

Coming down the end of the course was crazy. There were tons of people cheering, and I was smiling. Yes, smiling after 13.1 miles, after the hills, after everything. I crossed that finishing line with what I had left in the tank, and I was sure to throw up my hands in celebration. I was so happy! I mean unbelievably happy! I'd later find out that my time was 1:40:29, which turns out to be a 7:41 pace! The runner's high I felt was amazing. I've been through so much this past year alone, and to be able to prove to myself that I could complete a half-marathon meant everything to me.

My first half-marathon in the bag! 1:40:29 baby!

It was great to cheer on all the rest of my Team Challenge teammates and see how pumped they were to be crossing that finish line! Together we raised an incredible sum of money for the CCFA. Today, we either beat Crohn's or colitis for ourselves or for someone we know. Today, we're all champions. Go Team Challenge!

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU to all of my supporters for everything! You're the best! Thanks especially to my Mom and Dad who continue to support me in everything I do, and thanks to my brother and Meredith for coming out and running!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

1 final day!

This is it. My bag is packed. I've got my racing bib, shoes, gear, food, everything. It's all ready to go and so am I! I can't believe the race is tomorrow morning. I'm looking forward to the early morning wake-up call, the craziness in the morning, the pre-race jitters, and the starting gun. 13.1 awesome miles await, and I can't wait to bring them down.

Team Challenge New England!

I went on my short 3-mile run today and got in a good stretch. That's it. The next time I run will be tomorrow morning, and it's going to be my first half marathon. I'm so excited I don't have words for it. This whole experience has been amazing. From signing up, getting started with fundraising, seeing everyone pitch in, training, meeting absolutely inspiring people, being injured, learning more about my Crohn's, sticking with it, and getting to the starting line ready to go. It's crazy. It really is. The past few months have flown by, and spending that time with Team Challenge has been awesome.

6:13 tomorrow morning the gun will sound and I'll be off along with all my Team Challenge teammates. I can't think of a better way to spend my Sunday.

If you're in the area and want to come out and watch that'd be awesome! It's going to be an absolute blast! Check out the 13.1 Boston website here for all the race day information, including directions, parking information, and all that good stuff.

Thanks again for all of your support, and together we'll conquer Crohn's and colitis!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Bib #289 - It's game time

So I ran downtown after leaving work a little on the early side today to pick up my bib number and race shirt. I'll be running as #289 on Sunday, and I seriously can't wait!

It's really starting to hit me that this is going to be my first half-marathon. 13.1 hilly miles of running. The tough part is that I'm pretty competitive at heart, but I still need to watch myself and make sure I don't incur any injuries. The only thing worrying me is being on prednisone, which has caused me problems in the past. But I've been taking calcium supplements twice a day, everyday since I started the prednisone and I feel awesome. I can honestly say that I'm just happy to be running with such an inspiring group of people for the CCFA. That in itself is enough for me. I don't feel the need to hit a target time or anything like that. (I'll leave that for my next half-marathon.) As some of my good buddies would say, the score is fun to fun.

Tomorrow morning I'll head out for a short little 2 or 3-mile run just to loosen everything up and get in a good stretch. Then I'll pack up my things for the night with Team Challenge at the hotel downtown and be on my way! Don't worry Mom, I'll be sure to take lots of pictures!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Getting ready - 3 days left!

Alright so it's official. There's only 3 days until the half-marathon! I'm excited, a little nervous, and definitely ready. You only get one "first" race of any kind, and I'm absolutely pumped that my first half-marathon is going to with Team Challenge to benefit the CCFA. I honestly can't think of a better combination.

It's been a long journey, but it's been completely worthwhile. Meeting everyone on Team Challenge New England has been both comforting and inspiring. On one hand there's a lot of people who can relate to living with Crohn's and colitis, and there's also people who are living with the disease who are just flat out inspiring. While I'm going out there on Sunday to run the race to prove to myself that I can still do everything I want to do despite my Crohn's, I'm also running for everyone else living with the disease that can't do it. I can already feel there's probably going to be a wave of emotion that will come over me after crossing the finish line, but to me that'll just be a definitive sign that all of this hard work and getting through training despite relapsing has been worth it.

I can't thank everyone enough for their support throughout this whole process. When you give to the CCFA you are literally helping to fund the best research in the field, and personally I can't be grateful enough. Thank you.

I'll be posting daily updates from here on out and will definitely be letting you know how it goes on Sunday!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Last team training! - 6 days left!

So Saturday was our last team training before the race. We all met up in Southie at Carson Beach for a short 6-mile run. It's amazing how a 6-mile run has become a short run, when before it was one of our longer runs. I'm feeling good, and feeling ready to tackle the hilly 13.1 miles next Sunday!

We also got our official Team Challenge race day singlets today! As a little last-minute fundraising, anyone who donates $10 or more will earn a spot for their name on my shirt! After all, without awesome donors like you we wouldn't have been able to have raised over $380,000 as part of Team Challenge New England! Yup, over $380,0000! And of course if you've already made a donation over $10 you've already earned your spot!

Make your donation today! Every donation helps bring us closer to finding a cure for Crohn's and colitis!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

So close!

Yup, so it's been a while since I last posted on here. About a month actually. My apologies. Work got a little busy and then I got my third flare-up this year. But I'm finally feeling better, and I've finally remembered to write something in here!

It's crazy that the half-marathon is just a little over a week away! I can't even begin to describe how excited I am. This weekend at our group training we're getting our race singlets, so it's official! I'll be running all 13.1 miles come June 27! I'm a little worried, only because the prednisone that I've been on for what seems like the better half of this year has seriously weakened my bones. So much so that I actually notice it after a long run. But regardless, I'm going to run the half-marathon to prove to myself that yes, I can do whatever I set my mind to do despite my Crohn's or any drugs that I'm on.

As for fundraising, so far with all of your help we've raised $1,864 to fight Crohn's and colitis! That's outstanding! Together we've already made a huge step forward in taking Crohn's and colitis down. I honestly can't thank all of my donors enough, especially as this cause is so obviously close to me. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Finally off prednisone!

It's official, I'm finally off prednisone. It's been a rather long journey being on that stuff for 4 months. I'm feeling great and think that this time I'm finally in remission. I was a little worried there for a while that I wasn't going to achieve remission, but I'm incredibly glad I did. I actually just met with my gastro yesterday, and I won't have to see him until November! It's nice to not have to see him for so long. It's fantastic to be back to feeling normal again.

Training has been going well. We got around to running part of the race course, including the monster hill at mile 10. The hill wasn't too bad, but of course we hit it only a couple of miles into our run and not 10 miles into our run. The hill did kind of remind me a little bit of the cross country course we used to run in Hopatcong. Both hills have a "surprise" hill, where you're running up the hill and doing great, and then you think you're going to turn the corner and be at the top. But no, you're really turning the corner and keep going up, and up at a steeper climb, too. But at least I know what to expect now. Hopefully I'll be able to get down there and run that hill again so I can really get mentally prepared for it when I hit mile 10.

Overall though, the course is beautiful. When you reach the top of the big hill, you can look out to your left and have one of the best views of the Boston skyline I've ever seen. And a good portion of the course is on the roads in the woods, which I personally love. I'm looking forward to running more and more of the course, and especially to running it on race day on June 27!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Love that boiled water

Mmm. Freshly boiled water. Nothing quite beats it these days.

Of course I'm hinting at the ongoing water crisis up here in Boston and the greater Boston area. Long story short, a pipe in the main water line burst along one of the seams (watch it burst here) and the city has been running on back-up reserves. The current supply of water has been coming from our nearby Chestnut Hill reservoir, and even though the water is pretty clean it's still essentially pond water, so we have to boil water for consumption. All things considered, it's really not that bad. People of course freak out and stock up on a year's supply of bottled water, depleting the local grocery store of any water whatsoever. Whatever, my roommates and I just boiled a couple pots of water and poured it through our Brita filter. I think we'll survive. I'm more or less nervous about what will happen to the supply of Sam Adams Summer Ale since the Sam Adams brewery suspended all their brewing.

They've already repaired the seam and are currently flooding the system with clean, probably highly chlorinated water. Even though the weather was hot and sunny today, I had to avoid the occasional surprise flood from pipes pouring the dirty water down the street and into storm drains. Other than that I had a pleasant 4-mile run this afternoon. The worst was coming home and having only a tall glass of warm, room-temperature water to drink. Gross.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Embarrassing running story

Luckily I have no problem laughing at myself when I do something mildly or exceptionally embarrassing. Well, today I did one of those things. So normally I go out for runs in the morning because the roads aren't full of traffic and the city is calm and quiet. Quite frankly it's relaxing to go out for runs in the morning. But recently the weather's been warmer and running in the afternoons after work has become increasingly tempting. So today I went out for a run after work. So there I am running along, going at a nice easy pace. Then BAM! I trip and next thing you know I'm crashing onto the ground. We're not talking a soft landing here. We're talking a hard crash of the concrete sidewalk meeting my palms followed by a roll onto my back. I sit up, look down, and find the culprit: a loose shoelace. I think to myself, "You have got to be kidding me." I get up, laughing, and some guy running in the other direction asks if I'm okay. Then the two girls behind him were laughing and said, "Don't worry, no one saw that. Just everyone staring at you right now." The one day I go for a run in the afternoon and this is what happens. Awesome. Haha, thank God I can laugh at myself.

Race course announced

Entering into Week 8, training has been going well. We had our first group hill workout this past Saturday out in Waltham, MA. We ran a decent 6-mile loop chock-full of hills. Ain't nothing gonna stop us come June 27! Speaking of June 27, the race course for the Inaugural 13.1 Boston has been announced and can be found at the race's website here. The course is not too far south of Boston in Milton. Being outside of Boston, I'm betting the course fairly scenic considering you can drive just a few miles north, south, or west from the city and be surrounded by trees. I'm sure the people putting the course together did a great job and I'm looking forward to running it.

I'm still tapering off of the prednisone, which I've been on since January. First I was on 40mg/day, then I tapered down to 15mg/day. But then I relapsed again so I had to go back to 40mg/day, and now I'm back down to 15mg/day again. I'm feeling really good this time around. Well, I'm feeling normal as opposed to kind of iffy. The second time around I stayed at the 40mg/day level for a few weeks. I wanted to make sure that my Crohn's was actually in remission as opposed to a suppressed relapse only to come back to haunt me a few weeks later. I have an appointment with my gastro in May sometime, so hopefully I will be back in remission and off the prednisone by then. Gah, I can't wait!

Thursday, April 8, 2010


Yup, I know. I know I haven't posted in, well, forever and a day. So I thought that now since I've caught up on a bunch of things I postponed until "after the MCAT" that I'd make a post and update you all on everything.

Well, the big news is that I decided to go ahead and take this past week off from running. While it's not exactly the greatest thing in the world to take a week off from running while training for a half-marathon, I know I need to let my body heal before things progress and get worse. I don't know if being on prednisone since January has anything to do with my knee and/or my Achilles, but the good news is that I'm almost half-way done with my taper and should be off the prednisone completely in just a few weeks. I'm so excited to be off that stuff, you have no idea.

Regardless about the prednisone issue, I have to say that I've been really good about trying to recover as fast as possible. I've been icing both my knee and my ankle consistently now, twice a day everyday, and I'm feeling like I'm back to normal again. But I'm still going to skip out on the 5-mile race coming up this weekend. It'd be pretty silly of me to go directly from being injured to running a long-distance race without any kind of running in between. So all in all I won't be racing on Sunday. I'm going to look into finding another race of some sort between now and the half-marathon in June. Preferably I'd like to find a 10k or a 5-mile race. I think with a 10k I could get an accurate feel for how to pace myself during the actual half-marathon, which would definitely be beneficial for me because I've never run a half-marathon before. But for right now I need to focus on getting better and getting back in the game.

But just because I'm not running this week doesn't mean that I'm not training. I started myself on a new weight lifting program, and to be honest it is absolutely kicking my ass. I love it. I've also been doing some knee strengthening exercises and calf exercises to help get my knees and Achilles stronger.

Monday, March 29, 2010

So THIS is what it's like to have a life.

Last Saturday was the MCAT, and ever since that's been over I've been almost confused as to what to do with my new allotment of free time. Seriously, I've gone from waking up, studying before work, going to work, coming home, studying, and then going to bed, day in and day out for the past couple of months. I've stayed in on multiple weekends in order to study. It's all I've been doing, and now I'm done. Well, until I get my scores back in about a month.

So now that I'm done with that wretched exam, I've been excited like a little kid to get back into running and training. I actually got up bright and early this morning and went for a little run despite the rain. Running in the rain never bothered me. It can actually make it kind of fun, because it's sort of reminds me of being a little kid when mom would kick my brother and I to go play outside, only to have us return hours later covered from head to toe in mud. For me, getting a little dirty has always been a sign of having a good time.

However, unfortunately there's been something going on with my knee. It's only my right knee, but I think there's something a little out of alignment. I'll have to figure it out. Something like this happened about a year or so ago, and I think what I really need (but of course don't want to do) is rest. Regardless, it's good to finally have the time to focus on my training, even if that means I need to take it easy for a while.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Missing out

Unfortunately I will be missing out on the team run this weekend due to taking the MCAT. I'm really bummed about it, but I know that I'll be stressed enough as it is taking my exam Saturday. It's crazy because I'm sitting here with just one more day before my exam, and there's nothing else I can really do. I've gone through all the material multiple times, taken 8 full-length practice tests, and know about as much as there is possible to know about bio, physics, chem, and orgo. Plus, the large majority of the test consists of passages containing new information or experimental data and then having to draw conclusions from the new information. So more studying doesn't necessarily correlate with higher scores. Regardless, I'm looking forward to Saturday so I can take the exam and resume my normal life again! I can't wait for next week where I can get up in the morning and going for nice long runs as opposed to waking up and studying. That will be a nice welcomed change of pace.

So while I'll be missing out on the run this week, I'll be back in action starting on Monday! I'll also try to post on a more regular basis to keep you all up-to-date on my training, fundraising progress, and everything in between!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Music. It's my addiction. It's becoming a problem.

I love new music. My iTunes collection of over 8,000 songs can attest to that. I'm always on the lookout for new songs, new artists, and new styles. And when I say I listen to everything I mean I listen to everything. But now that spring is in the air I'm working on my Spring 2010 playlist. My most recent addition to my brand-spanking-new mix is "Colors" by The Pass. It's got a great beat to it, and plus every team I hear it I just want to grab my shoes and go out for a run. Listen to it here:

If you're always looking for new music like I am, or if you enjoy Pandora but kind of hate how they limit you to 40 hours of use each month or whatever it is, then check out thesixtyone. It's an online radio station that has a bunch of lesser-known artists (if they're known at all). But you can listen to radio stations by mood (smooth, party, crazy, mellow, etc.) and add your favorites to a playlist to keep track of the ones you love. Oh, and you can skip a song if you don't like it, which always happens from time to time like any radio station. My roommate who's always current on cool new music suggested it to me and now it's my go-to every morning when I'm getting ready for work, or when I come home and I'm cooking dinner.

And if you have any suggestions for my Spring 2010 playlist let me know! Feel free to feed my addiction by leaving me a comment, sending a message, writing on my wall, whatever! I'm always open to new suggestions!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Thanks to all of my donors!

I want to say a great big THANK YOU to all of my current donors so far!

The Carbones
The Conklins
Tom and Laura Falleni
Kristen Goodman
Laura Greehan
The Hoffmans
John Irvin
Chase Kinser
Gracie and Jiggs Koellhoffer
Amy Koppe
Frank and Ginny Lepore
Stephanie Ly
James Miceli
Brittany Murphy
Kim and Dave Utter
Nevin Vigneault
The Volks
Stuart Wall
Tachi Zhong
Anonymous (You know who you are!)

So far all together we've raised $730 for Crohn's and colitis research, which brings me to 29% of my goal of $2500! That's awesome! Thank you for your support as I train for my first-ever half-marathon on June 27!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Spring is in the air!

There's nothing like coming home to a house full of fresh air after leaving the windows open all day. Mmm, fresh air after the winter months is a welcomed change of pace, especially after last weekend which left much of Boston flooded and the D branch of the Green Line washed out. But still, Team Challenge came out strong last weekend despite the cold, wind, and rain!

Team Challenge New England - Week 2!

This morning found me back in Southie at Carson Beach for our third Team Challenge New England group run. We ended up getting in somewhere a little over 5 miles, which for me was good because my 8-mile run earlier this week left my right knee with a little pain. But I'm going to be taking it easier this week because of, well, getting ready for the MCAT. I know I've gone through all the material multiple times, taken plenty of practice tests, and am prepared to take the exam, but I need to keep the material fresh for just one more week until next Saturday. So as far as this week goes, I'll probably just be going out for some shorter runs like 4, 5, 6 miles or so in the morning before work. I may make it to the group run next Saturday, but I'll probably let myself sleep in the day of my test. I'll probably have to skip anyway because I'll need to get to my exam at least a half-hour before in order to get registered, my ID checked, my fingerprint confirmed, and settled into my computer. Yay for modern testing. I think it'll be better for me to just get in a nice run, eat a good solid breakfast (Eagle's Deli anyone?), and get psyched for my exam. I'm serious when I say I'm kind of excited to take this thing. Sure it'll be exhausting, but I'm ready for it. Plus after I can focus more on my training! I can't wait!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Waiting for the MCAT

I have to be honest. I can't wait until this MCAT is over! Everything I've been doing for the past two months has been focused on doing well on the MCAT. But now it's just a little over a week away, and I'm actually getting antsy to just take it. I just have a few topics I want to brush up on and two more practice tests to take before I'll feel completely ready for it, but that's about it. But I feel like I've been putting everything off until after the exam, which is understandable of course, but still. I want to really get into training, but can't really go full-force into that until I take this exam. But it's almost here, and not a moment too soon because the weather's getting considerably nicer out and if I was taking it any later I'd be seriously distracted by wanting to skip studying to go do something outside.

I'm really looking forward to after the exam when I can start focusing more of my energy on training. It's not that I haven't been training, because I went on an hour-long run the other morning in which I covered a little over 8 miles. I was going at a steady pace too, so I'm starting to think that I should be able to break 1:30 for my half-marathon time. But I'll have to wait until they actually come out with the course and see where it is and how hilly it's going to be.

But I'm feeling good and looking forward to the rest of my runs for the week. Nothing too big planned, just some morning runs before work and then the group run with Team Challenge New England this upcoming Saturday morning. I'm looking forward to it, especially since the weather should be so much better than last weekend!

In the meantime I'll be working on my training plan, thinking of a goal time, and working on some fundraiser ideas. Wine and beer tasting anyone? I'll work on that, but only after my MCAT!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The future is looking bright... and warm

I'm really starting to get back to feeling "normal" again, which is awesome because I hate being on prednisone. The stuff makes me so thirsty all the time. I think it's funny though how our one dog Jiggs gets prednisone for his allergies and we both get the same side effect. We're both thirsty all the time. Go figure. Anyway, I'm hoping that I'll be able to start tapering off the prednisone soon, but I know I have to be careful because I need to be fully in remission before I start to taper again. Luckily I'm not waking up in pain anymore or running to get to the bathroom, which is always a relief. But still, I just want this flare to be over!

Spring is officially rolling its way in up here in good ol' Boston, although right now that means some serious rainfall. Luckily we were able to get in a decent team run Saturday morning before the worst of the storm started to strike. It's not that I mind running in the rain, and in the summer when it's sweltering hot outside I actually enjoy it. (Plus there's that post-rain smell you get in the summer that's just delicious.) But when it's cold and I'm wet, I can be pretty miserable. I've already put my time in on the icy Charles River back when rowing for BC, and I think I deserve the right to say that I'm not a fan of the wet and cold.

The run with the rest of the Team Challenge New Englanders was awesome. I've never really gotten out to run anywhere around Boston other than the Brighton area and the reservoir (aka "the res"). I really need to get on that, especially with the nice paths along the Charles River right in my backyard. But anyway, I actually really liked running around in Southie along Carson Beach. I always love running along the water, which maybe is why I don't exactly hate running multiple 1.5-mile loops around the res every now and then. It's scenic, and in the morning I can catch the sunrise come up over the Prudential and John Hancock buildings. It's a pleasant sight, which is why catching the sunrise is always a little motivation for me to get out of bed in the morning and get running. Yes, I actually enjoy catching the sunrise. I know it's a little crazy because most people always try and catch just a little more sleep, but I'd rather sacrifice a little shut-eye to witness something only a small handful of other runners, walkers, and cyclists catch in the morning. I'll try and grab a picture sometime in the near future and post it. It's a gorgeous site, but right now the rain and clouds are preventing that from happening. In the meantime, this is a picture in fall of 2008 down on the Charles.

Sunrises are underrated.

But anyway, I've just checked the weather outlook for the upcoming future, and I'm seeing temperatures in the 50s! Yes! I'm pumped. I love that kind of weather. It's not too hot, not too cold. In fact it's just right. Unfortunately, I do most of my runs in the mornings, so I'll still be running when it's in the 30s or low 40s. But I'm totally fine with that because those temperatures still beat the 10s and 20s of the not-so-distant past.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

On my way to remission and back to running!

So I went back up to 40mg/day of prednisone for the indefinite future. I'm feeling so much better it's not even funny. I had to take a sick day this past Monday because I knew I would have been absolutely miserable if I had gone into work, but that one day of good ol' rest and relaxation really helped me out. No more waking up in the middle of the night in pain and running for the bathroom. I'm still keeping the bland diet and avoiding fiber at all costs. But I'm just glad I'm on the road back to remission. I just need to be careful not to taper off the prednisone too fast and to actually be confident that I'm fully in remission before I start tapering. It's a little tricky, but I think I'll have a better idea of what I'm doing this time around.

But the good news is I'm running! I just got my new shoes in the mail, and I love them. I tried them out for the first time just recently, and within the first few steps I yelled out, "OH MY GOD THESE SHOES ARE AMAZING!" The lady walking her dog thought I was nuts. But they're like running with pillows on my feet compared to my older pair. Mmm, nothing like new running shoes. I was running in an older pair of New Balance 1062's, and they did their job. But I decided to upgrade to the newer model, the 1063's. Sure, they're an older model (New Balance came out with the 1064 just recently), but I don't exactly feel like shelling out $125 for a pair of shoes that will last me around 3 months or less. I have to turn them over after around 500 miles or so, depending on how they hold up, which could be in about 2-3 months. If I really like these shoes after a week or so, I'll go ahead and buy another pair and break those in so I can easily transition from my first pair into my second pair.

This weekend will be my second group run with Team Challenge! I'm pumped. Last week was a lot of fun, and this week we'll be running in Southie around Carson Beach. I have to say it's really nice getting out of Brighton to go for a run somewhere other than around the Reservoir, down Beacon Street, or up Comm Ave. I'm really looking forward to it.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Relapse is back in full force

Relapse. Yup, it definitely sucks. I was coming down from my flare in January, and I was doing fine. However, when I was tapering off the prednisone I guess I wasn't totally in remission like I thought I was because recently I've had all the typical symptoms again and the pain is excruciating. I'm waking up several times a night in crippling pain, and during the day I find myself momentarily paralyzed at irregular intervals. I have to plan doing things like running to the grocery store down the street around whether or not I think I'll need to use a bathroom before I get back. It's annoying, to say the least, but for me it's just a way of life right now.

As of right now I'm back to my starting dose of prednisone, on a super-bland diet of bananas, applesauce, and toast, but I figure I'll also eat some eggs and maybe some chicken to just get some kind of protein source. I really need to try not to lose too much weight (again). It sucks because I know I need to eat because my body needs the calories, but when I eat it hurts as the food passes through my system. I mean, it hurts incredibly, horribly bad. When the pain comes all I can do is try and get in a comfortable position and wait the 5-10 minutes until everything calms down and the pain goes away. But it's impossible to predict when the pain is coming again or when I'll need to sprint for the bathroom.

I'm hoping that the prednisone starts taking its effect soon and that I'll be feeling better in the morning. I just wish that it would all go away overnight and that I'd be fine in the morning, but I know it's going to take longer than that and that I'll just have to wait. That's all I can really do right now - just wait. I just hope that it will all be over soon.

First run with Team Challenge New England!

I had my first group run with Team New England bright and early this morning up in Lexington. It's absolutely beautiful outside, so there was no better way to greet the morning sun with a nice little 40-minute light run. I mean it's BEAUTIFUL outside. We've had rain and snow all week long and now it's bright, sunny, and (get this) warm.

I was a little worried about going today, and I was even thinking of skipping out. I've been having trouble getting over this past relapse, and I'm back up to 40mg of prednisone a day again. I'm kind of bummed about prolonging my time on prednisone, but frankly I just want to be feeling better again. It sucks waking up several times in the middle of the night in pain and having to run to the bathroom. But I figured that I always feel pretty good in the mornings, so what the hell, I'll give it a shot.

I hitched a ride from the awesome Adriana, one of the mentors for Team Challenge. In a word she's great. All of the people that I've met on Team Challenge are great. Everyone is running the race for a reason, whether it be that they themselves have Crohn's or colitis and want to prove something to themselves, or they know someone close who suffers from one of the diseases and they just want to help. It was comforting being around people who totally understand where I'm coming from and what it's like going through a flare-up, but at the same time it's also humbling to see people running who have ostomy bags. But it really hit home with me today that we really are a team in this together. Nothing matters more than the fact that we're all in this to beat Crohn's and colitis. There's nothing but positive attitude and commitment throughout the team, and I can't wait to cross that finish line in June.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Hi Ted, meet Crohn's disease - Relapse and the Future

Continued from yesterday's post...

Relapse. Everyone that suffers from Crohn's and colitis fears it. It's the point in time when you go from feeling fine to feeling like crap, and it can happen in what seems like a flash.

My last relapse was this past January, and I went from normal to crippling pain in about 24 hours. My co-worker had recently quit making me responsible for her share of work so I was stressed out, I hadn't been sleeping well, I hadn't been exercising like I normally do, and my diet went down the drain because I had been busy. Not realizing it at the time, but that's a recipe for relapse. Stress + lack of sleep + general inactivity + bad diet = relapse. When I had some initial symptoms and I knew immediately it was going to be a long weekend. Of course it had to happen over a three-day weekend with MLK, Jr. Day and all, and of course I had to wait until Monday to hear back from my doctor about what I should do. I probably could have pounded a few prednisone and gotten through the weekend alright, but he had mentioned to me the possibility of getting a barium X-ray. My last gastro didn't have me get one because she only wanted to do the colonoscopy, but the barium X-ray can give at least have given me a good picture at how extensively my small intestine is affected during a flare-up.

So there I was, curled up in bed, crippling in pain from abdominal cramps every ten to fifteen minutes or so, losing weight drastically fast because I couldn't handle eating anything. The pain was almost like I was back on Asacol again, which I explained before was a complete nightmare. All I could think was, “What the hell is happening to me? Why won't this just stop?” I was practically living in the bathroom going up to 15 times a day. Even though this was stressing me out even more, I knew that I had to just try and stay calm until Tuesday when I could get in contact with my gastro.

When Tuesday rolled around the first thing I did was call my doctor, who just told me to go ahead and start the prednisone. Thank God! I ran to get some water and instantly pounded some pills the instant I hung up the phone. Relief at last! It was just going to be a matter of time after I took those pills that I would start feeling better. But it really took me about a week to get back to near-baseline. It was the longest week ever. Over the next few weeks I started tapering off the prednisone from 40mg/day down 5mg/day every week. I got all the way down to 15mg/day when, unfortunately, symptoms started coming back. I thought a mild amount of profane words to myself and started myself back up on 20mg/day for a week, which leaves me at where I'm at today. I'm still getting abdominal cramps without warning, and after a week on 20mg/day they're still not getting any better. Looks like I get to call the doctor tomorrow and see if he wants me to go back up to 30mg/day or all the way back up to 40mg/day. I'll just have to wait and see. My guess is that I relapsed during my taper because I was tapering too fast, but we'll have to see. I just hope that I can get it under control soon so that I can just get back to feeling normal again.

All in all, my relapse has only served to remind me that this disease is for real, and it's not going away anytime soon. While remission can last indefinitely, relapse is just around the corner to sucker punch me in the gut. So as I look to the future there's a lot to think about. I mean, I have to think about my stress levels, my diet, staying active, and all that good stuff. I also have to think about being more or less prepared for a relapse in the event that another one happens. But I also need to think about how I'm going to live my life with a chronic disease. I personally want to keep staying active and pushing myself to the max in everything that I do, whether it be my upcoming MCAT, work, my future MD-PhD training, or training for the 13.1 Boston this June, I don't want to slack off in any of it. But now I just need to be more responsible and careful. I need to learn how to let myself take a break and relax when my life gets busy. I also need to learn to appreciate the times that I spend in remission just a little more, so that if and when I relapse that I won't feel like I'm missing out on life.

But the future also holds a lot of hope, and the foundation of that hope lies in Crohn's and colitis research. There are always developments being made, whether it be in understanding how these diseases arise and how the progress to drug design and development. If the advances that have been made in the past few decades is any indication of what's to come, then I think we have some good things coming our way. Better therapies, better surgical options, and potentially even a cure. I can't imagine what that day when a cure is discovered will be like should I live to see it. I mean, over the past year and a half I've grown accustomed to living with a disease. I'm reminded of my condition everyday by the six to ten pills and supplements I take every morning. I just can't imagine what it would be like to suddenly have all of that just stop and go on living a normal and healthy life. Quite honestly it would be unbelieveable. I can only hope that that day comes soon enough.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Hi Ted, meet Crohn's disease - Remission and Living with Crohn's

Continued from yesterday's post...

I've been doing pretty well since starting my regimen of immunosuppressants. Although, I did recently have a relapse this past January and am pretty much back to baseline. This past relapse was particularly intense because it took me a full week or so before I really started feeling normal again. And now even though I've been feeling pretty good and am halfway through tapering off the prednisone, the symptoms have been creeping back recently. Luckily, they've been subtle, but it's still annoying to go from feeling normal to feeling ill in just a short moment. I've been doing alright though, and have been trying to keep my stress levels down. I've found that when I get intensely stressed out that it either forces me to relapse or makes my current symptoms worsen. It's a challenge because being sick makes me stressed out, and the stress just makes me feel worse. It's quite the vicious cycle.

But all in all, life have moved on pretty much like normal, I guess. I still eat pretty normally like before I was diagnosed, although now I tend to try to keep track of how much fiber and raw foods I consume. But basically I just try not to over-indulge in any one particular item, whether it be spicy foods, dairy, raw veggies, Mom's banana bread (which I just got in the mail yesterday!), anything. I also try to steer clear from caffeine because it just makes me feel sick.

Even though back in college when drinking was a part of campus life, and now in my young 20's when going to bars is a regular weekend activity, I've learned that I really need to tone back how much I drink. I'm not supposed to drink while on 6-MP anyway, so it's not really too great when I do. Although I'm at least a little smart because I take it in the morning and so when the evening rolls around, the large majority of the drug has passed through my system. But I'm not going to go to a bar and order a Sprite. Instead I'll order a Tanqueray & tonic and just take my time with it. If anyone's ever shared a drink with me, they'll know that I love my gin & tonics with a passion. What? It's a classic. But I have to say, not pounding drinks left and right like some of the other bar goers has its upsides. I'm not hungover the next day, I'm up early, go for a run, have breakfast, shower, get some work done, and all before anyone else even wakes up. It's a nice lifestyle, and I feel much better not drinking then when I do.

But all in all, I'm still able to do the things I want to do. I mean, I'm training for a half-marathon, and I'm training competitively with a goal time in mind, although I'm still thinking about how fast I think I can finish. But even though I have a chronic disease I'm a normal person. It's just weird when I tell people that I have Crohn's how so many of them apologize, saying something like, “Oh, that's too bad I'm so sorry.” It's kind of weird. I mean, I don't think of myself as some diseased patient, although those who suffer from Crohn's disease are technically “physically disabled.” Screw that, I'm not going to live like I have a disability. Instead I made a (cheesy) New Year's resolution to do more things that I want to do. It's pretty simple. If I think to myself, “I want to do that,” then I'll make the effort to actually do it. It's actually been a pretty awesome year so far. I wanted to run the 13.1 Boston for the CCFA, so I'm doing it. Even this upcoming spring and summer I'm planning on skydiving with some of my friends this summer (yes Mom, skydiving), going to more small concerts throughout Boston, whatever I want. It's been a great way to appreciate life rather than sitting back on the couch watching some trashing MTV or VH1 reality show marathon.

At the same time I enjoy all that life has to offer, I have to be careful and always think in the back of my mind that I have a chronic disease that can relapse any day. Crohn's disease is a part of my life now, and I've grown to accept that. But I'm definitely going to let it change who I am or make excuses because of it. That's just lame. Instead I'm going to just keep on living, enjoying life, and when that relapse occurs I'll deal with it then.

To be continued tomorrow with Hi Ted, meet Crohn's disease: Relapse and the Future.