Tag Archives: exercise

Wellness Wednesday- 9/23/15

23 Sep

I know what you’re thinking…..where’s the wordless Wednesday post?! Truth is, I wanted to share my love for health and wellness and this photo from my workout this morning says it all!  
At my new work location, there is a 60 day walking challenge happening right now (I think we are on day 10 today) to walk the 365 miles from our town to Chicago, IL. I’ll do the math for you, that’s an average of six miles every, single day. As my job requires that I sit at a desk for eight hours of the day and I spend about an hour total driving each day, I was a little worried how I would find time to get in my six miles every day. That’s when I started getting creative. 

I have started getting to work an average of 30 – 40 minutes early each morning. This gives me time to get almost two miles in on the track. I work at a university, so it’s a very nice place to walk, although sometimes that early in the morning I have to find an alternate walking location as the ROTC students are running drills, but I digress… like usual, I got my miles in early again this morning! And it was chilly enough to break out my runDisney 2014 Wine and Dine half marathon jacket!

And then with my hour long lunch break, I decided to get up and move – once again you’ll find me out on the track doing laps with my headphones on, jamming out to my workout playlist all while waiting to hear the beautiful Runkeeper voice state that I have conquered yet another mile! And oh the joy that fills my heart when my FitBit starts to vibrate on my wrist letting me know that yes, I did just walk 10,000 steps all before 2 pm! (That’s a little more than four miles for the day so far!)

So, by the time I arrive home from work around 5:30 pm, I only have about two more miles to walk, but because I am an over achiever, I usually strive to have 8 – 10 miles by the end of the night. To get those miles in I do a variety of things – sometimes I’ll do a fitness DVD, if the weather’s nice I’ll go walking at one of the state parks that are close to my home, and more recently I’ve been marching in place in myliving room  while watching movies/TV shows; you’d be surprised how many steps you can rack up in a two-hour movie!  

And I want to end with a special thanks for Runkeeper and FitBit for making exercise fun and keeping me accountable!

*All opinions expressed here are my own. I did not receive monetary compensation for any of my product reviews. All reviews represent the opinion of The Undercover Princess and are based on my personal use and results. I did not receive any free products. My opinion of a product will not change if I receive it for free or with a discount for reviewing it. 

Wordless Wednesday- 9/9/15

9 Sep

This workout has gone to the birds…. 

 

Sunset Lake Walks

18 Aug

There is nothing quite as relaxing as taking a sunset walk at the lake. Where I live, I am lucky enough to be within 15 minutes driving distance of two state parks and 3 minutes driving distance within a third state park. It was the latter where my mom and I found ourselves this evening. 

We enjoyed a 1.19 mile stroll along the “Boardwalk” as the sun sank lower in the western sky, painting the heavens pink, orange and shades of purple. Tonight the path was quiet, with only one other fellow walker out to enjoy the view. (About said walker, what we could not understand was why he was smoking a CIGAR while exercising?! Isn’t that counterproductive?!) 

During our walk mom and I had some quiet time alone to just chat…our special bonding time! We’ve come a long way with our bonding time since my days of high school when I would need to talk to you about all of life’s ups and downs way past 10 PM when all you wanted to do was sleep. Hahahaha!

Tonight at the lake was just what I needed to clear my mind and help me refocus on the exciting things to come next week and to let go of the situations I can not change. Nothing like nature to help you once again feel grounded and centered and at peace. I only wish I were a painter so I could capture the beauty all around me!   

   

#BeastMode – crushing FitBit goals

5 Aug

I crushed my 10,000 step Fitbit goal today! Realized hours later I did 10 miles in my runDisney Tower of Terror 10 miler shirt! Must have been some subliminal Disney magic pushing me on! This was the first time I have gone a distance of double digits since my half marathon, runDisney’s Wine and Dine Half Marathon last November!

 

2015 Hershey 10K Race Weekend Recap

20 Apr

Hershey 10K 2015Standing at the starting line in the early morning hours of Saturday, April 11th, all I could think was this seemed like a much better idea in January when I signed up for it. But there I was, at 7:30 AM in somewhat chilly weather with my Disney sister, Catherine, waiting for the Hershey 10K to begin.

Actually, I’m getting ahead of myself in this story, let’s start with the drive to get there on Friday. I live roughly 5 hours from Hershey Park where the race was taking place, a drive that would consist of nearly 300 miles on the Toll Road through the winding mountains, and decided to use my Easter holiday at work so I could make the trip earlier in the day. I planned to arrive around 2:30 PM, which meant I would need to leave around 9:00 AM, which meant that my family had already left for work and school when I came downstairs around 8:00 AM. but much to my surprise, my little sister had left this very sweet note for me to find taped to the kitchen cabinet.

good luck letter from my sister

I have driven through the Pennsylvania mountains only once before when Catherine and I met up with a third Disney sister, Lisa, while she was attending Penn State a couple of years ago. From the trip, I already knew mountain driving terrified me as I live in the relatively flat mid-west. Now, to add to my anxiety about this long drive, as soon as I cross the state border I enter into a torrential downpour that does not let up until I am 10 minutes from my destination, Catherine’s boyfriend’s (Matt) parent’s house. It was raining so hard, I could hardly see five feet in front of my car while twisting and turning around these mountains and because that just wasn’t scary enough, there was this section that according to the signs is a terrible fog area. I felt like I was driving blind. I could see nothing to my left or right, nothing in front of or behind me. I have never held so tightly to the steering wheel before.

At this point, I would say my stress level is a 7 but it quickly rose to a 9 when I had to drive INTO the side of the mountains. Typically I’m not a claustrophobic person, but driving in those tunnels (and there were 6 total) my heart was pounding so hard in my ears I could hardly hear anything else. Deep breathing and pep talks got me in and out safely. Reflecting back what I find interesting is that I have driven through mountain tunnels before as the passenger and I’ve never had a problem with them so I wonder why being the driver in a tunnel makes me so nervous.

Just when I was beginning to think I was never going to get to Matt’s house and that I would be driving around lost in the Pennsylvania mountains forever, I heard the most beautiful words coming from my GPS “arriving at destination on right.” In that moment I could have cried I was so grateful to be done driving and to see Catherine waiting for me in the driveway!

Excitedly she tells me she has a surprise! Much to my amusement and Matt’s dismay, we found ourselves at a Disney outlet store, because where else would two Disney sisters go for entertainment?! We had a blast looking at all of the Disney merchandise, and as you can probably tell, we did not leave empty-handed! She walked away with some cute pjs while I bought an adorable Duffy pillow-pet that was 50% off – I couldn’t believe it! Mickey Ear hats

Duffy the Disney Bear 21927_10152834430631693_7832908977077473312_n

After the Disney store, we drove around a bit looking for the Amish farm that sold milk and cheese, then it was dinner and back to Matt’s for some much-needed shut-eye. At dinner we determined that because the race started at 7:30 AM, we wanted to be at Hershey Park around 6:30 AM since Matt and Catherine had pick-up or packets already. We allowed for 45 minutes to get there from Matt’s house, which meant leaving at 5:45 AM. To make sure we didn’t sleep through the race, I set a first alarm for 4:45 AM and Catherine set a second alarm for 5:00 AM. And when that terrible sound pierced through my dream and startled me awake, I really wasn’t excited to be a runner, all I wanted in that moment was to be a sleeper. But I pulled it together, checked the weather like the non-newbie runner that I am and decided on pants and a jacket for the morning’s race.

Amazingly, Catherine and I stuck to our time schedule very well and only had a tiny bit of excitement in our journey to Hershey Park when my GPS apparently got a bit confused and started sending us in circles. But not to worry, we found our way and made it to the starting line with plenty of time to spare. And before we knew it, it was race time!

All 3,000 runners packed into the starting corral. It was exciting for me to see that some of the other runners were wearing race shirts from runDisney races I had also done in the past! I felt connected to these people, like we shared a bond of not only racing, but of Disney as well. Silly what your mind thinks about at different moments.

And just like that, we’re off! Now for those of you who may not be familiar with different race distances, a 10K is 6.2 miles – half the distance of a half marathon, which I completed in November. So with my music blaring in my ears, Catherine and 2,998 of my running buddies at my side and chilly mountain air in my lungs, I felt ready to tackle the course. However….there was one thing I forgot to plan for in my not-so-decent training for this race (hey, we had multiple blizzards this winter, made running outside a bit challenging!), ALL THE HILLS NEARLY DEFEATED ME!

I mentioned it once, where I live is really pretty flat in the grand scheme of things, sure we have some hills, but they are NOTHING compared to running on the side of a MOUNTAIN!

Hershey 10K 2015 course map

Catherine and I started off together, but eventually the hills and the chilly air got the better of me, and so I told her to go ahead, I’d catch up. I ran when I could and walked when I needed to, but I never once stopped moving. I knew that I needed to keep a 14 minute/mile pace or I would get detoured around the park and wouldn’t be able to run through – I wasn’t about to let that happen. About 2 miles in I settled on a rhythm – jog a little, walk a little, just keep breathing, jog a little, walk a little, just keep breathing. I had found “my people” – runners who shared my pace, runners who fought with every step to be runners, runners who didn’t “look like runners” but were, runners who kept me moving forward.

By the time we came to the first of two water stations, we had already gone under an over pass, up a small hill and crested a large hill to get up onto the main road. My energy levels and my spirits were beginning to drop. but then I heard someone cheering my name, telling me specifically great job, you’re almost halfway there. At the time I couldn’t figure out how they knew who I was – I was 5 hours from home, I didn’t know these people, it wasn’t until after the race it dawned on me, my race bib had my name printed under my number! Those volunteers with the cups of Gatorade and water will never know how much they encouraged me to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Up another hill, around a corner and through a shopping plaza. I was beginning to wonder if I’d ever see mile 4. Just as I was losing hope I spotted a fellow runner who had finished cheering us on! From her Minnie Mouse ears and Sparkle skirt I wondered if she was also a fellow runDisney fan! As I went past her I heard her say one more turn and you’ll be in the park! One more turn, just one more and I would get my first glance of Hershey Park. I pushed a little harder and by golly if there wasn’t ANOTHER hill once I passed through the back park gates! Ugh! But the coasters – holy cow!!

With only 2 miles left on the course I was doing good until, you guessed it…MORE FREAKING HILLS and would you believe it, the beginning of a terrible Charlie Horse! But, at least the race photographers got some great photos of me in action! So glad I bought these!

With only a quarter-mile and two turns between me and the finish line, there was Minnie Mouse ears and Sparkle skirt again! How did you do that?! Didn’t I just see you about a mile and a half ago?! Once again she cheered “Mariah, two turns and you’re there! You’ve got this!” I was so tired and emotional I almost burst into tears! With pain shooting through my leg and the finish line in sight, I dug a little deeper and gave it my all as I completed my race with an official time of 1 hour 29 minutes and 34 seconds! It was great having Catherine, her boyfriend Matt and his dad there cheering me on at the end! This is what complete exhaustion and accomplishment look like!

And so, yet another race is in the books – this one however I have dubbed a one and done kind of race. I’m not meant to be a mountain race kinda girl and that’s okay! Finally it was time for some much earned breakfast (Catherine and I had split an English muffin before leaving for the race, but it was long gone by now!) I had the pleasure of enjoying the most delicious sourdough french bread at this cute little diner while we waited for Hershey Park to official open for the day.

Since I had a long drive home ahead of me that evening I wasn’t able to spend a lot of time exploring Hershey Park, but I did have a chance to go on the Hershey Chocolate World Factory Tour ride, Skyrush, Lightning Racer, and Wild Mouse. All day long I had been wearing my Fitbit Charge HR so it was fun for me to see what my heart rate was when we go off each ride!

And before I left on my long journey home, Catherine and I took a couple of celebratory photos with our shiny new medals!

11150357_10152836640316693_5981983061079275194_n IMG_8760
On the road again by 2:45 PM, this time in beautiful, sunny weather. Still hate mountain driving and tunnels, but way less stressful when you can actually see the winding roads you’re driving on. One insensitive to get home quickly was the large chocolate chip cookie that was in the snack pack bag racers received at the finish line. When I finally got home at 7:30 and went to take a big bite, much to my disappointment I discovered it to be a RAISIN COOKIE masquerading as a delicious Hershey Chocolate Chip cookie. What a let down! But cookie mix up aside, the weekend was a blast on so many levels! I got to add racing in a new state to the list, hung out with one of my wonderful Disney sisters, explored a theme park I’ve never been to before and once again proved to myself that while running may not come as easy to me as it does to others, with a little determination, training and a supportive running community, there’s nothing that will stop me from crossing the finish line of any race I commit to!   

My Priority Statement:

4 Jan

My fitness and health are my number one priority – I will honor this by committing to loving my body as it is today, while pushing myself to become stronger, trimmer, and healthier tomorrow so that I can be around for a very long time.

I will honor my priority when I feel love for myself and remember to use only words and phrases that will build up my self-esteem and confidence. I will remember that my body is just the shell where I live – it doesn’t define me or limit my potential; however it does house my soul and my true self.

I will commit to exercising 30 minutes a day, 3 days a week and will come as close as possible to the recommended 10,000 steps per day as I can. I will also be more mindful of how late I am staying up so that my body has a chance to fully recharge and recover during a full 8 hours of sleep each night. I will be more aware of the food I am putting into my body and why – am I really hungry or am I thirsty, tired, stressed, anxious or mad? I will choose water more often than ice tea and juice, even if that means drinking it at room temperature. I will do better at counting my calories and using the resources available to me (i.e. My Fitness Pal and my Jawbone Up 24 app).

I will not feel guilty when I turn down my coworkers offer to order out for lunch or feel obligated to eat a cookie or something sweet they brought in to share.

I will limit my time reading for pleasure or watching TV so I can fit in my workouts.

I promise myself I will notice one thing I love, that is beautiful about my body everyday. I will never talk negatively when clothes don’t fit right or if I have yet to master a simple yoga pose. I will stop comparing my body to my friends, family members and celebrities as we are all at a different place on the fitness journey.

I will work to not punish myself for “bad days” or “slip-up days”. I will acknowledge that I was not trying at a 100% and will start again tomorrow; I will get up and try again. Failure is not an option and is not in my vocabulary any longer.

I will know I am perfectly committed to my fitness and health when I feel pride and joy in my progress and power in my choices. I will see a girl who is confident, radiant, self-assured of her place in the world and a beautiful person inside and out. I will have a smaller dress size and a smile that lights up the room! I will have energy to spare, smaller body measurements, healthy lab levels, control over my emotional eating, knowledge of how to live a healthier lifestyle, the desire to share that knowledge with others and the piece of mind that my outside finally matches the beauty I’ve always felt on the inside. I will hear the compliments of people who’ve noticed my progress and want to know how I’ve done it, I will hear my breathing is easier, no wheezing in my lungs and my heart won’t be pumping as hard. I will hear the roar of the crowds cheering when I cross the finish line of future races!

I will know that I have done my best and that I gave it my all. I will know that I am worth spending time on. I will know strength, power, and freedom and have a clear understanding that I am in control of my life and that I have the power to change the things I don’t like with a little hard work and determination.

 

**Are you wondering how I came up with my personalized priority statement? Interested in creating one for yourself? Watch the same videos I did by Chalene Johnson – I’ve made it very easy for you to find the videos on this playlist! If you’re interested in following along with the worksheet she mentions, here it is: SSS Life Balance Worksheet! I hope that you’ll take what she has to say seriously to heart, I have a better understanding of the things I need to change and focus on in my own life now! 

Wine & Dine 1/2 Marathon and the health nightmare that followed…

5 Dec

It is no secret that for months now I have been preparing for my very first half marathon – the runDisney Wine and Dine Half Marathon to be exact. I have logged the miles, improved my time and pace, practiced hydration and fueling along the course and read every advice blog and article I could get my hands on about what to do get ready for your first half. I felt ready. I had a game plan and as long as I stuck to it, I would be golden…however, best laid plans have a way of changing as I would ultimately find out. This post is the comprehensive account of my experience, from the best of times to the worst of times….

Let’s start at the beginning shall we….I left for vacation at Walt Disney World on Thursday, November 6th. The plan was simple, enjoy catching up with my Disney sister/runDisney addict, Monique, that evening at Downtown Disney until Scott got off work and would meet me at the resort, while also waiting to hear that another Disney sister, Catherine, had safely landed in Orlando and was in route to Disney. For the most part, this night was perfect, although the bus did seem to take forever, but maybe I was just anxious to be back at the most magical place on earth and see the people I had been missing terribly!

Friday, November 7th, consisted of getting to the race expo early to pick up my packet and scope out the merchandise! I’d had my heart set on buying the runDisney New Balance Cinderella shoes, however, I decided that I’d probably never wear them for fear they would get dirty, so when a maroon warm-up jacket in my size happened to catch my eye, it was fate – we sure did belong together. At least that’s what I told myself the entire time I was waiting in the super long check-out line (you would have thought I was waiting to ride Toy Story Mania or something by the wait time!) I also purchased one of those Mickey head car magnets that says 13.1 – but let’s face it, that thing will never see my car, it’s currently living on my dry erase board. As for the expo itself, I wasn’t overly impressed, although I was mighty glad they had printers because I discovered moments after getting to ESPN that I had left my race waver in my resort room. The entire time I’m at the expo, Catherine and I are playing phone tag, we never did meet up. 😦

 

After the expo, I went to visit Scott at work at Animal Kingdom, stayed there for a few hours and then went to Hollywood Studios where we enjoyed the first night of The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights after he got off work.

Saturday, November 8th – Race Day. Game plan was to take it nice and easy – so we slept in, hung out at the hotel until late morning and finally made our way to Hollywood Studios. Disclaimer – there is no such thing as an “easy” Disney Day for me, while we mostly only watched the shows and rode the Great Movie Ride, by the time we made it back to the resort at 4:30 PM, we had already walked 6.5 miles. Don’t ask me how, I’m still trying to figure that one out. I knew I needed to start getting ready for the race around 6 – 6:30 PM and that Monique would be coming over around that time as well, so I took advantage of the downtime and took a nap! What I have failed to tell you about yet is the massive rainstorm scheduled to hit at the start of the race…. Bless Monique’s heart for running to the store to buy us ponchos in a pouch – we could carry them until we needed them at least. I was also extremely thankful to the kind stranger on the bus to the starting line who shared his box of zip-lock plastic bags with us. According to him “the fastest way to make friends with runners is to have a box of plastic bags for cell phones and the fastest way to make friends with strangers in the airport is to have an extension cord.” He had a great attitude, I think we would have been good friends!

weather map rain

 

Our costumes this time around were a mash-up of Disney Princess meets The Hunger Games. Check out our pictures!

While Monique and I were getting ready, Scott was creating this! I love him so much!

race spectator poster

And here’s Catherine and runner Peter Pan! Monique and I were FINALLY able to meet up with her, and her sister Alison at the starting line “party”. We were so cool we danced sitting down! (It’s a joke, seemed funnier late at night – just don’t ask!)

 

And the rain came down before the race ever started… standing in corral I, I pulled out my poncho. We were about 40 minutes to the start and I was FREAKING OUT! Luckily, there were some very great people around me who offered advice and suggestions and all around encouragement. I love the runDisney family, doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or Olympic Gold medalist, we support and cheer everyone equally. My group took off around 10:20 PM and then it was 3.5 hours of running in the pouring rain.

Wine and Dine Half Marathon 2014 course map

I ended up doing the majority of the race blind because by the time I had reached the 3 mile marker I had wiped my glasses off no less than 200 times – in that moment I took off my glasses and fully relied on my other senses to carry me through. Well and the other runners. Luckily at this point I had found a group of people who were just my speed and I was bound and determined to stick with them. I trusted them – if the group veered left or right and then back to the center on a straightaway, that began to mean large puddle on the opposite side of the road. By miles 6 and 7 I was hurting bad. I had blisters, large ones and as luck would have it a few had broken open. But I was only to the half way point – I had to keep going. I was thankful for the rain – no one could actually tell I was crying.

Mile 8 and we were getting ready to enter Hollywood Studios and I was running low on belief in myself and the will to press forward. And that’s when I picked my “running buddy” for the remainder of the course – the blob (remember I can’t see anything clear farther than the length of my own arm!) in the bright green shirt with the long dark hair. You didn’t know you were chosen obviously, because I was always behind you, but when you ran, so did I, and when you walked I thanked the Heavens above. We were playing a game, you and I, and it was called “Catch me if you can, but don’t you dare fall even farther behind”.

I had convinced myself it wasn’t far to the The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights (oh you know, just another short 2 miles!!!!) and once I was there, I couldn’t even enjoy them, not really. I tried to take a few photos, made difficult because I was out of energy, shaking and it was STILL pouring. On the bright side, bright green blob must have been enjoying the lights because we walked this whole time.

 

By the time we left Hollywood Studios, we were saying hello and goodbye to mile marker 11 – we were heading to Epcot and the finish line energy was palpable. Bright green blob was feeling it too, we moved a bit quicker where we could, but the path narrowed and got pretty slippery. I think now is a great time to publicly thank all the volunteers and spectators along the route – you have no idea how much your cheers of encouragement meant to me. When I needed a pick me up, someone was always there with a “you’ve got this!”, “keep going you’re almost there!”, or a “yeah runners! we’re proud of you!”

When we made it to the bridge at The Boardwalk, there were two cyclists waiting off to the side – I thought for sure I was about to get swept (not be allowed to finish for all of you non-runners out there), but they let our little group pass on by. Still my heart had lodged itself in my throat and somehow my stomach had found a new home at my knees. And when I finally entered Epcot something inside me broke loose – all the fear, all the pain, all the excitement, and the knowledge it was almost over was so overwhelming I cried. I high-fived strangers. I smiled when I wanted to grimace. I put one foot in front of the other and kept moving forward toward my goal. I have a quote by an unknown author that has been hanging in my room for the last few weeks of my training and I thought of it just then – “On the last mile when your legs are tired and your lungs are burning, GET ANGRY. GET ANGRY for being tired, then RUN FASTER.”  At that point I couldn’t feel my legs, my fingers, my nose – I didn’t know if the ground was still solid below me or not, but I knew I was half a dozen turns away from the finish line.

And then, like a beacon in a dark night, there it was – lit up and welcoming. I sprinted with every ounce of energy I had left in me, afraid that if I didn’t, in that moment I would collapse and never make it across. I know there were hundreds of people screaming, but I heard nothing but my beating heart, saw nothing but the finish line clock – I would finish under my time goal at 3 hours and 27 minutes and just before 2 AM.

And then that medal was around my neck and all I could think was “you did it and you are still standing!”

Wine and Dine 2014 finisher

Although it was still raining, I pulled out my cell phone and let everyone know I had made it – I had finished. Then I was focused on finding Monique and Catherine and leaving. I was so sore and cold and miserable I didn’t even want to stay for the party. Catherine finished before I did and had already left. Monique was waiting for me at the entrance to Epcot – sadly she had been swept at mile 8. Like so many others, Monique and I did the broken-runner shuffle to where the buses were waiting to take us all to our resorts for showers and warm beds. When Monique and I got back to the room, we discovered Scott had set out towels and bananas for us! He’s so thoughtful!

I don’t know how long I slept the next day – it was a very restless sleep. Everything on me ached – my feet from the blisters, my back from hunching over in the wind and rain, my head with a splitting migraine for not wearing my glasses for so long – I felt like I was falling apart, but I had earned that medal and I was going to show it off in the parks! I moved very slowly the remainder of my vacation, but I didn’t let that dampen my spirits or stop me from enjoying myself – all day Scott asked me if I wanted a wheelchair. I refused – there was no way I was going to ride around all day with my hard-earned medal. Monday night we did Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, Tuesday I had a meeting to go to and had to shove my injured feet into high heels, and Wednesday I flew home.

I was still in a lot of pain and by Friday afternoon at work (November 14th), my feet were red, swollen and extremely painful to walk/stand on. After a trip to the local urgent care center, I was diagnosed with Cellulitis in both feet from the broken blisters I got during the race. I was given a 10 day, take twice a day prescription for Bactrim, told to drink plenty of fluids and keep my feet elevated above my heart for the next few days – and if the swelling didn’t go down or the pain stop, head to the Emergency Room.

So for the next two days I could be found with my feet up, watching Hallmark movies, drinking lots of fluids and taking my medicine once in the morning and once at night. It seemed to work – the redness started to fade, the swelling went down, I rediscovered my ankles! By the time Monday rolled around I was feeling better and seemed to be on the mend. By Thursday, however, my energy levels had dropped. I wasn’t sleeping even though I had started going to bed by 6:45 PM – and when I did manage to catch a few hours, I had terrible nightmares. And on top of it all, I had a migraine like you wouldn’t believe – and nothing soothed it.

Monday, November  24th – After a night of being unable to get comfortable and having less than two hours of sleep, my alarm went off at 5:30 AM for work. When I turned on the light, I noticed I had the beginnings of a red, itchy rash running down both arms – and since I work at a hospital and knew they’d probably send me home for fear it was something contagious, I took two Benadryl, called out sick and tried to go back to bed.

Tired of tossing and turning by 8:30 AM, I got up and made my way downstairs. At 9:00 AM I took my last dose of the Bactrim and fell asleep watching a movie. I woke at 11:00 AM in terrible pain – the Benadryl had worn off, thank goodness it was time for another. While I was sleeping, the rash had spread quickly to my chest, back and legs. It was harder to breathe (not like an asthma attack where you feel like you are trying to breathe air through a clogged straw, more like trying to expand your lungs while a sumo wrestler is standing on them – it took a lot of energy to inhale and exhale shallowly).

It was about this time my dad text me to see how I was feeling. I told him about the difficulty breathing and the red itchy rash spreading. And he responded with what I already knew was coming – “call Papa and see if he can bring you into the ER. Also tell me the name of that medicine you’ve been taking for your feet.”

I relayed the information and made the call. Then I sent my dad this photo:

Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis Disease

And then his instructions changed – “Call the ambulance. Tell them you are having a severe allergic reaction to a medication.” But I already knew this – I don’t remember much from my first go-round with Stevens Johnson Syndrome, but this was how it started and this I remember quite well.

Oddly enough, my sister Megan’s boyfriend, Austin, was the EMT who answered the call. When he walked in the door, I think I scared him – I wasn’t doing well at that point – red, swollen and breathing hard. I watched him take a deep breath and go to work. Papa was here as well helping to keep me calm. When two other EMTs arrived from the next township (need more than one person to transport) we all loaded into the ambulance, Papa following behind, and headed for the Emergency Room at the hospital where both I and my dad work. There was nothing they could really do for me in the ambulance other than give me pure oxygen to help ease my breathing (I wasn’t wheezing, so I didn’t need a breathing treatment) and give me ice packs to put on the rash to help ease the urge to itch. They monitored my blood pressure.

My dad met me in the ER and mom was there not long after. By now it’s 12:30 PM and I am in such intense pain, the rash is still spreading and becoming a deeper red. I am exhausted. In a word, I was miserable. I felt bad for the nurse who had to put in my IV, but luckily she found a spot on the inside of my arm where there weren’t a lot of blisters, and she had this cool black light type tool that helped her to find a good vein on the first try. And then I felt bad for yet another nurse who had to put the sticky EKG pads on my already irritated skin.

Emergency Room

Finally after an IV, blood draw, two bags of saline fluid, a shot of pain reliever and 6 long hours of trying to explain to the ER doctor that this is how my first reaction of Stevens Johnson Syndrome started and that I needed to be seen by a specialist at a burn center, I was discharged and feeling a tiny bit better. My parents and I were then on our way to hospital number two so I could be seen by a burn specialist. At one point during my stay in the ER they were discussing admitting me, but that was vetoed because they didn’t feel there was anything else they could do for me there, so then the discussion switched to which hospital I’d like to be transferred to – the hospital with the burn center was not one of the choices at that time. I’m glad we decided to just drive there ourselves – I was STARVING at this point (I hadn’t eaten since 8:30 AM and we were now pushing 7:00 PM!!), so thankfully we grabbed some food on our way!

It has been 10 years and 2.5 months since my first visit to this burn center. I wasn’t scared or nervous – I knew what the treatment would be if in fact this was Stevens Johnson Syndrome and if it progressed. I just wanted to know what this was and how I could relieve the pain long enough to get a few hours of sleep. There was a nurse waiting for me when we arrived. She led us over to one of the Outpatient Rooms, had me change into my second hospital gown of the day and asked me the same set of embarrassing questions I was asked earlier. I was informed the specialist wanted to see me himself to determine what I had, but he was in a surgery and his resident was attending to a trauma in the ER and she wasn’t sure when either of them would be up.

Outpatient burn center

About 15 minutes later, the resident walks in and while looking at my chart says “hello, my name is Dr. Burn, but you can call me Nick.” The irony of his last name was not lost on my mom or I, we exchanged a suppressed giggled glance. Oddly enough, he could have been EMT Austin’s twin. Then he looked up and I had the privilege of shocking him. Here’s why – this burn center is located within a CHILDREN’S hospital, and seated before him was me – a fully grown, 26-year-old female. THIS WONT BE AWKWARD AT ALL – HE’S MY AGE FOR CRYING OUT LOUD! (sarcasm) Dr. Nick checks me over, asks questions, writes some stuff down and let’s us know he’s going to go talk to his supervisor and they’d be back.

Another 10 minutes or so and Dr. Nick and the specialist return. Again I am examined from heat to toe and everywhere in between. Thank goodness the sweet nurse I met at my arrival has been there the whole time – she makes it less awkward. The diagnoses – Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis (TEN) Disease – another form of Stevens Johnson Syndrome, but on a lesser scale. Just as before – there is no treatment, no magical cure, it just has to run its course – however long that may be, no one could say for sure as everyone reacts differently. Because I did not have any blisters or open skin wounds, I was fortunate to go home and not be admitted to the burn unit this time around. I was given a medical release slip from work for 10 days as stress could cause my reaction to worsen. I was told to take Benadryl and Tylenol for the pain and if after a few days that didn’t help, I was given a script for another pain reliever. However, this was passed along with a caution – it is not known what introducing a new drug to my system during a reaction would do, it may help, it may cause things to get worse. I made up my mind right there I wasn’t going to be filling that script. My only job for the next two weeks was to drink lots of fluids to help flush the toxins from my body and to rest.

After a few days I was finally able to get some much-needed sleep. The redness faded and the spots began to go away as well. The migraine came and went. The itching and the aching pain in my muscles and joins held on longer. Slowly even the bruise from my IV began to heal.

IV bruise

Everyone thinks having two weeks at home on the couch sounds like a wonderful thing – however, once you begin to start feeling like yourself again, you start to go a little stir crazy wishing you could leave. I am looking forward to going back to work on Tuesday (December 9th) – I miss my normal routine, I miss feeling productive, I miss my work friends and I’m ready to put all of this behind me. And with two weeks off work I know there will be a mountain of projects each demanding my attention that will carry me through the end of December.

Needless to say, this was not the experience I had been dreaming about for my first half marathon. And I honestly feel like that moment was stolen from me due to the rain. At this moment in time I don’t know if I’d sign up to do another half marathon, certainly nothing longer, but then again, I’m dying to run through Magic Kingdom (it’s the only park I haven’t run through yet) and I really don’t want this to be the only half marathon experience I have to reflect back on. So with that being said, I’ve got some time to think about it, to weigh the pros and cons, and probably be convinced by my Disney sister that next time will be better – and IF I decide to run again, I’m looking at you, runDisney Princess Half Marathon 2016.