Sunday, April 29, 2018

A Runner with RA Gets a Reality Check

After last week's race, I felt like I had conquered rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Finishing that race in a time I haven't seen since before my diagnosis was such a mental boost for me. I reflected on the possibilities. I have been running so well this spring and maybe, just maybe there is the possibility of remission. Maybe there is the possibility of a sub-2 half marathon for me this year. And maybe...well, I'm not even going to go there...

Ok, I'll go there. With Boston on my mind, would a BQ be in my wheelhouse? Of course, that would mean I'd have to run a qualifying marathon. And a marathon is a whole different animal from a 10 mile race or even a speedy half marathon. I know I said I was done with marathons and most likely, I am. But a runner can dream, right? After all, that's what keeps us running.

Silly old lady! The running gods laughed at all this. Inevitably, life and RA slapped me right back into reality.



The evening after the race, I felt a little off. You know that kind of sick feeling you can get when you've pushed yourself really hard? I thought it was kind of odd because it was only a 10 mile race and while I ran faster than I had in a while, it was not blazing fast and I sure didn't feel like I overdid it. I was well trained for that pace, my heart rate was within a good range, and I'd been feeling good throughout the race.

On Sunday, I had hoped for a shakeout run, but still feeling fatigued and "off". I dusted off my bike and took it out for an easy ride on the trails. It was a beautiful morning and I was really happy to have this option for recovery. I rode 16 miles with no pain in any of my joints. Still feeling overall kind of funky, I did some yoga and took it easy the rest of the day.


With early work days both Monday and Tuesday, I decided not to run those days and let my body recover. I was incredibly fatigued and I started to worry that this was more than post-race fatigue. On Wednesday, I went for a 6 mile run. This run was not at all the easy-paced, recovery run I had hoped for. My effort felt off the charts and with 3 days of recovery prior to this run, that really concerned me. For the rest of the day, I felt achy, like I had contracted the flu.

For this run, I even wore the race shirt for good luck.
Did I awaken that sleeping giant? You know, the one whose initials are R and A?


I'm afraid so. I woke up very early Thursday morning with pain in every large joint. My ankles, my knees, my hips, my elbows, and even my shoulders were throbbing. Ibuprofen did nothing. I was miserable. I canceled CrossFit. I made a superfood, anti-inflammatory smoothie. I took all my supplements.

I started steroids. That's how bad I was feeling. There was no running. There was no anything. I spent the day on the couch. I worked on the upcoming week's blog posts. I reflected on my situation. It wasn't time to panic. I hoped that I intervened quickly enough to stop the flare.

Friday was a full day of work, so I waited until Saturday to put my body to the test. I woke up early and thanks to the steroids and couple cups of coffee, I was a bundle of energy. But when I started out on my 4 mile run, once again, I felt the effort. I looked down at my watch and said "Whoa Nellie!". I was running faster than I should have been and reined in my pace. But by mile 3, I had to take a walk break and when my Garmin hit 4 miles, I was done. Toast. Called it a run and walked the rest of the way home.


I reflected on what happened. Yesterday, I read an article on Runner's World about training and it said that "easy runs should make up the majority of the workouts". I know this. Doh! I know this. I kicked myself for going out too fast. I vowed to run slower on Sunday, even if it meant going back to run/walk intervals. And I let it go. Tomorrow will be a better day, I vowed.

My actual mantra for Sunday's run
My running buddy Steph is back to running and earlier this week, we made plans to run together. Not wanting to hold her back, I begged off. I headed out this morning full of resolve to leave my ego at home. If I want to run long distances, I have to be prepared to have to adapt. I brought back the run/walk intervals, using 9:1 intervals and I ran 8 miles at a 9:11 pace. The pace felt moderately easy, I felt good, and as I write this I still feel good.

I needed today's run to sort out where I'm at and where I need to go from here. I thought that I was past this. I thought that I had my disease under control. I thought I was finally going back to running the way I know I can. What I realized this week--and this disease keeps teaching me things--that I can't control this disease.

What I can do is not let RA control me.

Do you push yourself to be your best no matter what? Do you have limitations that make you hold back? 



Congratulations to Holly on her half marathon PR this weekend!!!!! Way to go! Sub-2 hours, baby!

It's the Weekly Wrap, hosted by Holly and me. This link up is for fitness-minded bloggers to share their race recaps and/or workout recaps. If it is your first time linking with us, check out the rules in the tab above. 




115 comments :

  1. I'm sorry that your R.A made you feel lousy. Do you find that the anti-inflamatory foods and smoothies help? I'm glad that you don't let this hold you back and that you are out there running trying to show R.A who's boss!

    I am constantly finding my self holding back. I am so afraid of "pushing" myself for fear I will have an IT Band flare up again. That was the worst pain I ever had in my life and never want to go back there again. -M

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    1. I wish I could say that the anti-inflammatory foods and supplements help. I'm sure they do, to a certain extent, since they don't cause inflammation. But bottom line, it was the race that did it. Whenever we push ourselves hard, our bodies become inflammed as a result of all hard work. I haven't had a flare in such a long time that I thought I was moving past it. Now I know that I may pay for my efforts. It's a continual learning process. But I'm not done yet.

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  2. Sorry you had such a rough week. I'm glad your Sunday run rewarded with better spirits and a strong finish to the week (and a great start to the new week). ;-)

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    1. It's just so darned unpredictable. I have to learn to go with the flow, I guess.

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  3. I am sorry that you had a rather rough time this week. I can only imagine how frustrating it is for you to know that your mind and body are ready to do something but the RA holds you back. Everyday is a new day and we have to take them one at a time

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    1. That is exactly the lesson I am learning!

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  4. I'm sorry you were feeling so crappy. It must be frustrating dealing with a chronic illness like that. Listening to your body is key though! Don't give up- your BQ or other dreams can still happen. Just don't push yourself too hard.

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    1. I've never been good at going easy on myself. It's a work in progress.

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  5. I'm glad to see that you are holding your head up and not letting RA control you (even though that might be the easier route). You are strong and have so much to be proud of!

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    1. I see a lot of fellow RA warriors doing just that--it's a chronic illness thing. I can see how it happens. I'm going to try not to let it get me down.

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  6. I hate that you had to deal with a flare after your super speedy 10 miler. But what you said about inflammation makes perfect sense. The stress we put on our bodies during a race is killer -- I feel like the Michelin man from the waist down today. So I can't even imagine what having RA on top of that would be like. Hopefully you caught the flare early and if today's run is any indication, I think you'll be back in tip top shape very quickly. Thanks for the shout out. Definitely put this race on your southern race list.

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    1. I'm kicking myself for not coming down, but since I was flaring, it all worked out, right? Loved your raccoon shirt with the INB skirt too. Totally knocked everything out of the park.

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  7. How frustrating to have to deal with this, especially after such an awesome race. I'm glad you were able to have a successful run today, even if its different than how you have been able to run lately. I hope this flare up passes quickly!

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    1. I feel like it is getting better, but I just have to learn how to recover from a race. Just when you think you have this running thing all figured out, life (or RA) comes along and messes you all up!

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  8. I’m so sorry that you had a bad week dealing with a flare up, but I’m also so impressed at your resolve. You will NOT let RA win!

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    1. Oh hell no! Not after that race last weekend. Now that I know what I can do, I'm just going to let it settle down. I'll behave myself. I promise.

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  9. Sorry it came back :( I struggle with pushing myself too hard and dipping into the overtraining bucket frequently. It's hard to rein it in sometimes, and as a coach i 100% know this. But listening to myself is harder than being able to tell my athletes the logic behind it.

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    1. You are so right. I've been running so long that you would think I would have this all figured out. But running is always changing for me. I have to say that I have really learned so much this past year since my diagnosis and I think that is going to benefit me moving forward.

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  10. Goodness, I hope you get back into tip top shape soon. Your flare up sounds painful, but I admire that you refuse to let RA control you. Good for you!

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    1. Starting the steroids was the best thing I could do. I can't spend my days on the couch!

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  11. Sorry about your flare up, but it seems that you did what you had to do get through it and over it, and back in your running shoes. I can understand why you'd want to run hard whenever you can, but I guess it is smarter to hold back even when you feel good.

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    1. I guess it would be smarter to do that, but what's the glory in holding back, right? I just need to be smarter about recovery. Fingers crossed I get on top of that too.

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  12. Sorry that you had a rough week! It must be difficult to manage when you aren't sure when the symptoms will hit.
    I always think that I don't push myself hard enough...I need to find that right balance between enough and too much.

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    1. The weird thing is, I didn't feel like I was pushing too hard. I felt really good. I guess it's just one of those things...

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  13. I hope the supplements and steroids will help get you over this. You had such a good race, and your attitude is a good one. You won't let it win! I know there are always set backs, but you'll keep moving forward.

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    1. I'm already feeling better, so thank you for that!

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  14. As hard as it must be to endure what feels like an incredibly setback, I'm sure you'll get past this. I guess that's it's all back to the old saying -- run the mile you're in. Some days the disease will get you, and some days it won't, and you have to just go with the flow.

    Sorry for the cliches! I hope that you bounce back quickly and feel better.

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    1. I feel like I'm bouncing back already. Fingers crossed that it continues.

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  15. So sorry to hear about your RA flare up! You have a great attitude, and I am sure you will overcome!

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    1. I'm learning every day how to deal with this thing. Today was a win!

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  16. So sorry to hear that you're struggling, but glad to see you seem to know how to move forward. Hope the revised plan works.

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    1. It was hard to go back to the run/walk intervals, but I read a study on them today. The study said that runners who stop to walk regularly recover better than those who don't, and finish in about the same time they would either way. That was pretty solid evidence for me!

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    2. Better recovery makes total sense.
      The first time I mixed walk/run I couldn't believe that I finished faster than when I ran the whole time

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    3. I've had some really good results with run/walk but I haven't topped my straight running race times.

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  17. I've learned to always (almost always?) listen to my body. I've realized that the older I get, the more important it is to not overdo it. My brain and my heart tell me to push, push, push; but my body reminds me to do otherwise. Here's hoping you can get this flare squished back out of sight where it belongs!

    Thanks for the linkup!

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    1. I didn't overdo it at the race, but I sure tried to overdo it this week. Running 101: listen to your body. I finally did today and it paid off.

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  18. That's a tough reality check, Wendy. But I know you won't let RA control you. You're out there pushing it as best as you can! Love that quote from RW.

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    1. It's funny how the exact advice you need seems to come at the right time!

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  19. Ugh sorry about your week. And your RA. That sounds awful.

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    1. Well, not awful but certainly not pleasant!

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  20. I’m so sorry you’re feeling poorly and after you had such a good race. I’m really impressed with your resolve through the flare. Keep being kind to yourself and I wish you a speedy recovery.

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    1. Yeah, me too! The steroids seem to be helping tho, so that is a huge relief!

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  21. I'm sorry - flares are rough! Before I got my CFS diagnosis, I was in a constant cycle of push hard - crash hard - rest hard - repeat. I'm reluctant to say I'm out of the cycle yet, but I think the diagnosis gave me a push to make some rules for myself that I should have made long before. Like, if I run a race I can't have any other ambitious plans for the weekend. Doing yardwork all day doesn't count as a rest day. If I'm struggling to wake up, I choose sleep over running. I don't always notice the warning signs, but when I can it seems to mean a few days of feeling crappy instead of several weeks. I hope you caught your symptoms soon enough and will be feeling back to normal this week!

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    1. Thank you for sharing your story. I agree with you, I have to be better about making similar rules for myself. It's a learning process for sure. And yes, I'm feeling much better. Steroids for the win!

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  22. I think you are amazing! I am an Emergency Nurse and see all kinds of illnesses and people who don't manage their health. You seem to be managing your RA with great strength while at the same time using that strength to take it easy when you need to. (which can be hard for a runner)
    Keep doing what you are doing. I wish you well.
    Great pace for your 8 mile run too!!

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    1. I think when you work in our profession (I'm an NP), we see so many people who are passive and do nothing to help themselves. I don't have time for that. I've got a lot of life to live yet.

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  23. Ah, sorry to hear you had a bad week! Sounds rough to handle the RA especially when you were feeling so good before. I know you'll get through it.

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    1. You are so right, Sherry! I'm on top of it and hoping for a better week.

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  24. Sorry you felt so lousy, but you seem to be managing things well. I have to admit you're an inspiration to me. Seeing you go through this a keep at it gives me hope I can over come my own issues and get back to running again.

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    1. It's all about taking charge of your health, which can be overwhelming. There are days where I'd rather lay around, but then when I'm forced to (like on Thursday), I can't wait to get back at it again. It's so empowering to be the boss of me.

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  25. Sorry to hear about the RA flare, but glad there is a glimmer of good news in that the run/walk intervals felt good and that you still feel good!

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    1. It really is just the craziest and most humbling thing. I'm feeling better and hoping for a much better week.

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  26. Chronic illness reality checks are the worst. I'd prefer to live in my blissful little ignorance lol

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  27. I'm so sorry your RA was flaring. It's so frustrating to deal with chronic illness, especially one that causes pain. I hope you're feeling better soon and your RA goes back under control.

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    1. I'm hoping I caught it early and keep it quiet. So far, so good!

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  28. what a bummer, Wendy. I think it's so tricky. RA is a sneaky bugger. Just when you think you have things in control... I suppose it really takes a while to figure out what sort of running workouts work and what don't work?

    My own reality check is that my foot is still messed up, likely the surgery wasn't performed 100% and I either have nerve damage or a "stump" neuroma. I'm beyond frustrated but finally accepted that this is what it is right now so the marathon is off (I'll do a half instead) and I'm trying all sorts of alternatives to make things as pain free as possible (dry-needling, CBD Oil). I did call my orthopedist and asked for another cortisone shot before I head off to Liverpool. It's really not ideal (doesn't help weight loss) but I need to run the Half all the way through for my own mental health!!!

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    1. Ugh to the foot. I swear, foot issues are the worst! I hope the steroid shot helps you so you can run that half!

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  29. Aw man :[ I'm sorry to hear that you had a rough week! I hope the steroids have been helping! I think I have a tendency to try to push things so I've been trying to scale back so I don't end up messing anything up.

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    1. I'm not good at scaling back. It seems like the steroids are helping and that makes me happy.

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  30. Ugh, so sorry your RA flared. It is the devil, timing things to knock you off your runner’s high. I hope you’re feeling better and I know you won’t let this stop you.

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    1. The flare makes sense tho, since I pushed myself at that race. Altho not as hard as you'd think. Guess it was time for that "reality check". I'll be back...

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  31. I am sorry to hear your RA flared last week and I hope this week is better! You are resilient and I am glad the run/walk intervals helped you.

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    1. It's nice to have those run/walk intervals in my toolbox. I was happy that I could do the 9:1 interval instead of having to go all the way back to 4:1.

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  32. We all have good days and bad days. I savor the good ones because you never know.

    Walking is no embarrassment. I walk ALL.THE.TIME.

    You are the toughest runner I know. Keep at it. I know you will.

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    1. Walking isn't embarrassing but it sure can be humbling! I do think the timed intervals work much better than stopping to walk when you're fatigued.

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  33. I'm bummed to hear the race set off your RA. I think our logical brains want to be able to say "if I do x then x will happen" but in many cases, it doesn't work that way. I know how much you'd love to put RA behind you permanently. To me "best" = being flexible and working around whatever comes my way. Redefining "best" is definitely challenging.

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    1. As always, you nailed it. There's no complacency with this disease. So I'm learning about being flexible and yes, humility is a good thing too.

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  34. Sorry to hear that you felt so bad this week :( But it sounds like you caught it in time with the steroids and hopefully you continue to feel even better today.

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    1. Every day gets better. I think I got on top of it!

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  35. That is tough Wendy. I hate that looming feeling that something doesn't feel right but you can't quite put your finger on it. Being flexibly with a disease is hard sometimes...but you have a good outlook in the future :) Keep your head up and that BQ can totally happen!

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    1. It's a dream, but I think that's all it will be!

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  36. I have huge mental roadblocks that hold me back. I actually was just talking through them last night during an easy run with my husband. It's so frustrating to feel so limited. I'm glad to hear your on the mend - sometimes our bodies have to remind us who's in charge ;)

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    1. Isn't that the truth? I'm not happy about it, but I'm learning to adapt.

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  37. Sorry about the RA flareup. I have a good friend with RA and so I see at close hand how debilitating it can be. Well done for doing what you do and living with it obviously so well.

    I have found I have a running training sweet spot of 25-35 miles when my immune system is great and I don't catch colds etc. Over 40, I get very run down. So I'm going to work within that now.

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    1. I don't think I could do 40 miles per week! I do pretty well staying in that sweet spot too. Cross training is my friend.

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    2. When I say "Over 40" I did that once and I still basically have a throat infection!

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  38. Thank you for sharing, I hope you feel better soon! I don't really have a physical limitation, but I do have a lot of travel for work and so I try to give myself a break for my mental health. I do the best I can, and try not to stress if I don't get in ALL the runs I'd hoped or improve speed as much as I'd hoped.

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    1. It's always hard when we don't get it all in, no matter what!

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  39. What a slap in the face. Damn you RA! Damn you Auto Immune! Steroids are pretty serious, they scare me actually. Not sure why, they just do. I pushed myself to see how far I could and then backed off, and felt fine, a little tired, I pushed a wee bit harder and well now some crazy pleurisy seems to be rearing it's ugly head. My huge huge huge concern with my Lupus is what it is doing to my insides, what is it doing to my lungs and my heart and my kidneys things I can't see and we don't know are all fouled up until its late in the game. I'm hopeful the new Rheumatologist will be sensitive about my fears.

    Here's a HUG to feeling better soon. Be kind to yourself.

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    1. Taking the steroids was the kindest thing I could have done this week. It was a short course and enough to shut down the flare.

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  40. Ugh...I am so sorry that you have to deal with RA. Your optimism is inspiring though! I learned painfully not to push myself but it’s hard when your mind wants to but your body can’t.

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    1. Exactly! It's hard to come to an abrupt halt after running so well.

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  41. Sorry to hear you are feeling this way again! I sometimes push it and then pay for it. I'm supposed to do 50 minutes of cross training tonight but I got very little sleep last night so I'm going to bed as soon as I can. I need the rest!

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    1. I'm actually pretty good about resting when I need to. I go to bed super early. But missing a run? Slowing down? That's more difficult!

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  42. I love the mindset of doing your best no matter what it is; my cousin has RA and I know it can be hard. Listening to your body and not your desires can be hard but it's worth it in the long run. Way to do what you can, when you can the best that you can!

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    1. That is the goal! I'm not going let this slow me down!

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  43. What a challenging situation to deal with and how frustrating after such a strong race. I love your attitude about it all, but I can imagine how hard it must be, how hard to figure out when to push and when to not push...You are incredibly strong and an inspiration and I hope this flare ends quickly!

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    1. I'm happy to report that I am feeling much better. Hoping to get back at it--I've got goals to crush!

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  44. Boo sorry to hear a flare up happened after such a great race.
    You are doing all the right things to get things back under control.
    Hope you can rest (as hard as that is sometimes) and get back to running and dreaming :)

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    1. I'm not surprised that I flared but I hope that I have it under control. I have one more half this spring.

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  45. Wendy I'm so sorry you had such a tough week. It must be so frustrating to not know when these flares are coming. I find myself holding back and running scared because I'm afraid of re-injuring myself. I hope this flare is short-lived!

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    1. It's hard to expect the unexpected, isn't it? I'm just going to bring my best no matter what. Hoping some of that speed comes back as I finish up spring running.

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  46. Ugh. I am so sorry! How frustrated you must be!

    After I hurt my hip flexor (two years ago!), I took a huge step back. I am so afraid of hurting myself like that again, and being out of the game for so long. It made me re-evaluate a lot about how I was training and what I was doing when I was running. I know it's not quite the same, but it's the answer to your question about trying to be your best. And no. Right now, I don't. I do those easy runs and I push during races, but I always know I can do better. I'm at peace with it, because I just want to run.

    I hope you are feeling better soon.

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    1. I'll always make a race fun even if I can't run fast. I learned that I never want to be disappointed with a race. We get to run when so many people can't. If I'm feeling great and I can fly, that will be even better!

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  47. Sorry you aren't feeling 100%, way to listen to your body. Keep focused on the big picture to help you through the ups and downs as a runner.

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  48. I'm so sorry Wendy! Damn RA!!!! I'm glad you were able to listen to your body and get some rest. I hope the slower paces help you recover. Lots of love your way! xoxo

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    1. I hope the slower paces keep RA happy too!

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  49. I'm sorry to hear you had a tough week with the RA flare up! You are such an amazing inspiration and I am glad you listened to your body!!

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    1. I'm glad I listened too and got the steroids started right away. I'm feeling so much better now.

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  50. Ack, it sounds like this is always going to be a balancing act between what you want to do vs what you should do in order to stave off the RA flares. I'm sorry you were hurting so much.

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    1. I'm in a Runners with RA group on FB and this seems to be how it's going to be. I have to learn to expect the unexpected.

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  51. I'm sorry this week was tough for you. Hopefully you are feeling better. I think your long run with the intervals was great! You continue to inspire and I love your honesty.

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    1. That long run was just what I needed and I felt pretty good after. I'll continue to take it easy this week.

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  52. I am sorry you had a tough time recovering. I know exactly how that feels to feel pretty good doing the activity only to crash later. I often think how similar our situations sounds when i read about your flare ups and apparently so does my Doc, because she has twice checked for autoimmune disorders thinking the test wasn't correct the first time especially because of the swelling in my fingers and toes. Fatigue is the norm for me, but there are times (like the last few weeks) it just takes over and I feel the body aches like I am coming down with something for a few days. I do the same thing you do, I start feeling good and think half marathon, maybe a marathon again...
    I know how frustrating it is when you feel like your body is betraying you especially when you work so hard...hang in there! I am sorry you have to go through this.

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    1. I really think it sounds like you have RA or something similar. That's exactly what it feels like. There are really specialized tests for RA--the "normal" inflammation test don't often show anything. In fact, my workup was all normal except for the RA blood tests.

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  53. RA sounds so frustrating, I’m sorry Wendy... Running is such a fine balance between pushing yourself hard but not past that certain point. Yet it’s hard to know exactly where “that point” is! I can’t relate to the RA but I have struggled with the pushing myself vs rest/recovery thing, especially in the early months after having each of our babies. I lack self control in that for sure.

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    1. I'm learning about self control but I'm not good at "taking it easy". It's a hard lesson for me to learn!

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  54. I'm really sorry that you felt so bad. I can't imagine running with RA or having an autoimmune disorder. I don't know much about them, so I won't offer a lot of advice except that I'm glad you are so active and you don't make excuses, as I feel like a lot of people might do that. You don't let it hold you back, and to me, that is what is inspirational, not necessarily a finish time or a BQ... but the fact that you give 100% each day even when your body is in a state of rebellion against itself.

    I'm currently dealing with some running injuries- high hamstring tendon issues, which my new doc thinks are actually caused from arthritis in my big toe. Don't get me wrong, I don't want arthritis, but I am glad to possibly get to the root cause. I can run some, but I have pushed too far during this injury and had some setbacks.

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    1. I know you've been desperately searching for answers and I hope you find them!!

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  55. I love your mantra for Sunday's run. I don't have RA or autoimmune, but I know how frustrating it can be to feel great one day and bad the next for other reasons. You did a great job this week reevaluating and taking care of yourself. I really admire your attitude -- I think it's important to keep that mindset so you can crush it when you're feeling great. Have a good week!

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    1. I'm grateful that the flare was fast and furious. I'm still feeling a little bit of it but I'm just taking it slow until it completely goes away again.

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