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20 August 2015

Birdcamp!

I just got home from Birdcamp! It was a lot of fun. I know there will be tons of detailed blog posts about it, so I'll just mention a few highlights:
  • I did an 8-mile long run (/walk) in beautiful Leavenworth, Washington. This is a pretty long run for me these days!
  • I stayed with my wonderful roommates from last year, Kim and Ayesha. I am so lucky to have met these ladies last year and even luckier that we all wanted to room together again.
  • We floated down the Wenatchee River, which was beautiful and relaxing. 
  • I took my phone swimming. It drowned. I lost all my pictures.
  • I got to spend time with 99 amazing women who love running as much as I do. 
  • It was inspiring, satisfying, and extremely well-organized (ahem, Lesko). 
  • Meditation with Bree of Jasyoga was super satisfying, and it planted the seeds of my little Birdcamp revolution.

I could list 50 more cool things, but Birdcamp is way more than the sum of all these great moments. It is a magical place where dreams can grow without shame or fear. It's a place where you can pry yourself open and not be afraid of what you will find.

I loved the discussion we had about goal setting with Adrienne Langelier and Lauren Fleshman. I used to love setting running goals, but ever since my running has been affected by MS, I haven't wanted to set goals. I still can't run more than about 4 miles without breaks, and I've been stubbornly vacillating between hoping I can run again like I did a few years ago and considering quitting altogether. 

I've been thinking of my running-related MS symptoms to be different from other "normal people" injuries. Like a good drama queen, I've been convinced that my situation is so much worse than a broken foot. But MS has a lot in common with typical running injuries. I am currently unable to run as far or as often as I want to. I am slower than I want to be. The future of my running career is uncertain. On the other hand, a big difference between having MS and a more traditional injury is that nothing hurts, which is a good thing. And I can't make it worse by running.

It seems like I should approach this like any other injured runner would. So here are the goals I set at Birdcamp.

1. Do what I can do
I will find a run/walk cadence that allows me to complete my February half marathon. At camp, I started experimenting. I ran 10 minutes and walked 1. That seemed totally doable until a giant hill kicked my ass. So I will keep experimenting until I figure this out, and at the same time, I will put together a reasonable training plan.

Maybe I won't recover from this injury, but let's consider the alternatives. I could quit running. Um, no. Not until I really can't run anymore. I could stubbornly keep trying to run as if I'm not injured, but that's not really an option. When my legs stop working, I physically can't keep running. It is better to focus on what I can do right now, today, this week, for the next few weeks, and adjust if necessary.

2. Stay positive and hopeful about the future
I often say (cause I'm a drama queen) that I have an "incurable, degenerative brain disease." You can see why I don't do well at parties. But I don't actually believe that it has to get worse, and most of the time, I believe it could get better. I'm not even always convinced it's "incurable." I believe that staying positive is a huge factor in health outcomes, so I will keep hope alive in my mind and in my heart. I will focus on what I can do, not what I can't.

At Birdcamp, I thought a lot about my relationship with running. Me and running, we've been at a standoff, standing petulantly with our arms crossed, refusing to look each other in the eye. I've been angry at my new limitations, and I believed by accepted them, I'd lose something. But now I can see that was wrong. There is no harm in accepting what *is*. If suddenly someday I recover from my "injury" and can run more or faster, that will be great. And even if not, accepting my self puts me on a better path.

This is why I love Oiselle and the VolĂ©e. It's so much more than a group of women who wear the same clothes. It's a safe place to find out who you are and what you're capable of. At Birdcamp, I stopped being angry about where I am with running. I realized that I have a massive opportunity to grow as a runner and as a person, and I should take it.