The Start of a Journey

Disclaimer: Originally published 6/28/2011

This is a more serious post, and it’s a doozy, but the story should be told in its entirety, so that maybe someone else will learn something without struggling as much as I had to.

I started running when I was probably 12-or so years old. My older sister Laura was little miss track star at her high school, so when she would go for training runs at home I would tag along. I grew up in a house that knew nothing of nutrition. I would routinely eat Cheetos and frozen pizza, and we NEVER had fresh veggies. As you can imagine I would attempt to run with my sister and completely burn out within a mile.  Laura would continue running because apparently Cool Ranch Doritos were the optimum fuel for her while I would walk and run intervals until she passed me on her way home. I would run/walk home and endure a mixture of admiration for her and total and complete pain in every part of my body.

I had no idea how people could “love” running. I joined the track team in high school, really it was just to hang out with my sister (I was a total pest) and be part of a co-ed sport (can we say boy crazy?). I pursued the short sprints, the 100, 200 and 4×100 relay and pole vaulting. Track was never something I took seriously so I coasted along enjoying it more for its social benefits than anything else.

Binge drinky McFee

College. I got to college and was 4 hours away from home and TOTALLY unprepared and overwhelmed. I lost weight my first semester (food poisoning… TWICE)  and then gained it back  by then end of the year. I spent that year running 5 miles a few times a week, but only to prep myself for binge drinking. Running 5 miles and not eating dinner was how I rationalized the calories from drinking. My college years were without a doubt the unhealthiest time in my life. On my 19th birthday, after arguably the worst 6 months of my life at that time, I had a serious run-in with alcohol poisoning. It was a huge wake-up call. I realized that I wanted to be fit and healthy and that I didn’t even like the way I felt after 1 or 2 drinks. I was also almost 140lbs which for me, at 5’2″, was a little more than hefty. I decided that I was going to get fit. That was the beginning.

Spring of 2007 I started paying attention to my body. I quit eating as much junk and drinking like a stereotypical college student, started jogging a few times a week and fairly quickly lost 10lbs. I had confidence and felt pretty for the first time in my life. I wasn’t a runner, on a good day I could jog 5 miles, most days I walked and jogged 4 miles or so. Not to mention I was only jogging 3-4 times a week. I was happy with the changes and proud of myself and I knew I would never relapse into an unhealthy lifestyle again… I didn’t per say, instead I chose a different, unhealthy path.

Summer of 2008 I got a gym membership and started one part of what would soon be a two sided battle. I started working out 10 times a week. I would Spin MWF, Kickbox TTH, do a one hour strength/Pilates workout MF, play soccer on F, Step on Saturday and Bootcamp on Sunday… I also decided that I would do all of this on an 800 calorie diet. I know, it was ridiculous and trust me, I almost never stuck to 800 cals/day but I would try. I ate packaged diet foods and artificial sweeteners, etc etc… I flirted with the idea of bulimia, but in all reality my stomach keeps what I put in it, end of story. I slimmed down to about 115-117lbs which was a totally normal weight, but I was doing it the wrong way. I was so confused (i.e. uneducated) about how to lose weight that I convinced myself that the less I ate and the more I worked out, the thinner I would be. It doesn’t work that way. I eat 1500-2300 calories a day now and I am more fit than I ever was. Feed to succeed people.

I should have felt amazing at this weight, instead I felt guilty for the way I got there

I was stressed and depressed, probably worse than I needed to be, but when you are hungry everything seems worse than it is. I became anti-social, because I didn’t want to be in ANY situation where there might be food or drinks because of the temptation. I went through some crazy family drama and learned that controlling what you eat can be addicting. I put working-out on the back burner, and aimed for 500 calories a day. In 5 weeks I was down to 107lbs and I felt pretty. I felt like the girl who orders salads and politely says no to any food offered to her, the one that everyone envies. Oh wait- except that most of the time I was too busy being depressed and feeling faint and dizzy  to really feel anything. I would get tired from climbing a flight of stairs, any muscle tone I had developed was gone.

I decided that I wanted to run a half marathon, not for the fitness but because those marathoners are so skinny right? So if I train like a runner, I will look like a runner, right? Wrong, train AND eat like a runner and you can try  to sculpt your body into that of a runner. Sculpt, that is what it’s called, it isn’t play-doh, not my body at least. It takes time to change your body. I have been working at it for a year now and I am always learning more and always working harder to get just one tiny change. I tried training like a runner and missed my first half marathon because I was so exhausted. I couldn’t keep a pace, 10 miles felt horrible, how could I do 13? Note- I ran my first 10 miler, in cotton clothing, in 100F weather, without water, without shotbloks (or any supplements) and on appx 900 calories from the day before and a clif bar for breakfast… and I wonder why I felt like shit. The fact that I even did that just blows my mind now. So STUPID.

Pictures I can be proud of.

It took me until Fall 2010 to shape up.  2010 was a healthier year for me but not a healthy one. Running became my primary workout but I still wasn’t eating right, or enough. I moved to San Diego and my main goal was to get into shape. I mean this city is filled with gorgeous girls so I thought I needed to get it together. I joined a gym again and started spinning again, my running routine pretty much ended. I was convinced that I hated running–I would run 2 miles and then crumple into a heap on the trail and cry because I was exhausted and frustrated, my body was running on empty. I finally ran my first half marathon with Phil in October without really running at all to train  (2Hr:45min). There were certain points on the route where I almost cried because I knew I would finally do it, I would run a half marathon without stopping, even if it was at a pace that some people can powerwalk… I did it. The strength I pulled from that accomplishment was amazing. I told myself that it was time to change. It was the Nike Women’s Marathon in SF… the finishers medal is a Tiffany necklace and for 2010 it was a pendant that said ” I run to be…” and I finished that statement with “strong”. It was time for me to be stronger than Body Dysmorphic Disorder, than my anxiety, than my calorie restriction, and that was the fork in  the road.

I decided that I wanted to try and run another half marathon, this time in 2:30 or less. My eating changed, I focused on cleaner, healthier more natural foods. I stopped working out at the gym in December and spent the rest of the winter/spring running. Phil and I get up at 5am to run, even when it’s pouring down rain. Phil says we started running for fitness (training for the La Jolla Half in April) and now we run for fun. Now I do love running; I mean it. I love the way it feels to run strong, to know I can climb the next hill or pick up my pace. I love the way it calms me down and clears my head. I almost never run with music, mostly because I love the way it sounds to run. The sound of my shoes and Phil’s hitting the trail or pavement, my breathing, and I feel more when I focus on myself during a run. I feel my exertion, I feel my stride, my pace, and I can adjust properly, it’s being at total peace with your body.

Healthy Happy Me

2011 so far:

I’ve  started focusing on NET calories… i.e. if I eat 2000 calories, but my heart rate monitor says I burned 500 in my workout then 2000-500 = 1500 NET calories. I really try to stay in a small deficit, because I’m still  trying to lose weight, but also keep my body from plateauing. This also lets me refuel more on big workout days when I need it. Phil and I ran the LJ Half (2:00:55 helllll yes!!! We blew that sub 2:30 goal out of the water) faster than I ever thought possible and we have only been increasing our mileage since. During the LJ Half, Phil took off, and I thought to myself, “Crap, I will never be able to keep this pace for 13 miles much less up that HUGE effing hill” but I just kept on pushing and we owned it. We PRed by 45minutes and even though the last 2 miles were brutal it was so amazing. I kept getting choked up and thinking that I better get it together because there would be no way for me to control my breathing if I were to start crying.

2011’s New Year’s Resolution was to run/bike 1000 miles, I’m already at over 1000(end of July) so the new goal is to run 1000 miles in 2011. We run almost every day, and because of a run-in with over-training in July I decided taking 1 rest day a week is a MUST. I got a vintage road bike from P-Love and we bike as much as possible, and as for running I pound out 10 mile runs like nothing. Training up to marathon fitness (R&R Las Vegas Full!!!) and speed training are my new goals for fitness.

As for health, I have learned some amazing things. I’m not lactose intolerant like I thought I might be, my body doesn’t particularly love complex carbs (even though I do) so it’s hard for me to eat bread, pasta etc. without feeling horrible after. Artificial sugars like sucralose (splenda), aspartame and sugar alcohols (malitols all of the -ols etc) make me physically ill. My body won’t digest them easily so I get bloated and have to deal with headaches and sharp abdominal pains for several hours. It’s horrible. Salt is evil 😉 which I tell everyone, and I try to keep a very close eye on it. Fats are good and my body likes protein best. I used to call myself a jogger, not a runner; but upon reflection I won’t self depreciate just because I’m not fast. I am a runner.  I realized I don’t really like hiking and mountain climbing as much as Phil, but I want to continue running and racing for the rest of my life and I even have some interest in cycling events.

Being healthy has helped me in other aspects of my life too. Notice how much more genuine my smiles are? I don’t hide behind make-up anymore, I stopped fighting myself and started accepting certain parts of me for what they were, like my crazy mufasa mane of hair. I quit indoor tanning (no thank you cancer) and even wear flats sometimes now ;-). I feel much better in more ways than just health.

I want to run a marathon, and not just one either. This year I will run 2 half marathons and 1 full marathon and next year I hope to step up that schedule even more. Running is a journey just like life. I’m learning that you see so much more when you get up and move. 


8 thoughts on “The Start of a Journey

  1. As much as you admired me growing up, the tables have definitely turned. You are a hero in my book and I hope to accomplish half the stuff you have and be the person you are today and Im so happy my children have such an awesome role model in their lives. I didnt name my son Ashley for nothing and one of my Favorite things is to tell people who he is named after. I Love You Sis, Your MY hero.- Mrs.P

  2. I had no idea that this has been your journey over the last couple of years. I am so very proud of you, and at the risk of repeating your sister–I admire you so much. I love you and miss you so much.

    1. ❤ 🙂 most people didn't and you were at Davis by the time it got really bad. Friends like you helped a lot xoxo Keep me updated on your plans, I may be moving back up north soon

  3. Ashley,
    You are an amazing woman who has made my brother the happiest I’ve EVER seen him! I hope he lets you know that!! It seems like you and Phil really give each other the time and focus needed for you both, it’s one of the main things that was missing in Phil’s life before. He really loves to take care of you and make sure you are always happy, but I appreciate that you take the time to return the favor and make sure he’s taken care of:). Love you both and really, really hope that you move back up this way…Lee still knows you by name in pictures….:)

    1. I don’t even know how to reply to this… ❤ your family has been so warm and welcoming, and a big part of the reason we want to come back north is to be closer to everyone. Phil is an amazing man and deserves the world. We love you guys too, and I hope to be close enough for more visiting soon, maybe even before the year is out!

  4. WOW! you are very inspirational…both as a runner and someone who has struggled with body issues. i can definitely relate and hope to follow your story. 🙂

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