2013 Children’s TLC Groundhog Run Recap: I Believe

On Sunday, January 27th, I set out to run my first 5K in a year. There were obstacles in my way, threatening to stop me. Everything from a lack of training to getting sick to race day challenges hit me. Yet I learned that my biggest obstacle that I had to overcome was learning to put more faith into myself again. Liberace has been quoted as saying, “Nobody will believe in you unless you believe in yourself” though I’m sure lots of variations have been spoken by just about everyone under the sun. Regardless of who said it first, it is true. I managed to overcome a lot, and I finished the race without walking! Doing so, I learned a valuable lesson.

Feeling Under the Weather

In the weeks leading up to the race, I did not get to train as much as I would have liked. I have not been managing my stress levels, thus exacerbating narcolepsy symptoms. I have a game plan each day of things I have to get done and things I’d like to get done. When I cannot finish the list, I tend to unravel a bit. I start slipping up on my diet. Sleep hygiene goes out the window as I miss naps and don’t go to bed on time every night. It leads to sleep deprivation, compromising the immune system.
Wednesday night before the race, I came down with a stomach bug. I spent the next two days at home, trying to recuperate while also trying not to sleep the entire time. It’s natural to be sleepy when you’re sick, but I didn’t want to deviate too far from my schedule. I did take a couple of extra unplanned naps. The fatigue was still lurking on Saturday, and I worried I would be too tired to finish the race. Being sick also meant missing out on two runs that I had scheduled before the race. In the grand scheme of things, two runs do not mean much, yet I felt even more shortchanged on training.

Pre-race Prep Gone Wrong

My family had a lovely Saturday. The weather was nice. We drove down to packet pickup, a little over a half hour from our house. We don’t make it out that way often, so we make it a point to stop by Trader Joe’s while we’re there. The contents of our cart were two bottles of Charles Shaw (also known as Two-Buck Chuck), some gluten free pasta for me; some shortbread cookies, a bag of chips, and a box of pretzels for the hubs and kiddo; as well as two 6 packs of beer for the hubs. Not a very healthy cartload for sure. I’m glad I cannot have most of it.
After our Trader Joe’s run, we took our daughter to exchange a duplicate Christmas gift for a new toy. She thought that was the best part of the trip. I was really starting to get sleepy while walking around Target. I felt more doubtful about running the next day.  Unfortunately, our poor food choices didn’t stop there. I consumed way too much sodium and knew it. Without the Xyrem, I’d already gone over the recommended daily value. I knew I would pay for this in the morning.

Sure enough, I woke up on Sunday with terrible muscle cramps and extremely tight hamstrings. I also felt really thirsty and had a headache along with some nausea. I quickly drank some water and part of a protein shake. I also did some jumping jacks and light stretching to try to loosen up. I was sitting in the floor feeling like I may have an IBS flare when my husband came downstairs. I told him how I was feeling, and he said, “Remember the bathroom situation isn’t good there.” And it isn’t. There are port-a-potties, but the ratio of runners to toilets is never where it should be. I almost, almost stayed home, but I thought about how we ran this race last year and decided to make it an anniversary tradition. I couldn’t ruin that after just one year. Plus, I’d have to come here to this blog and tell you all that I did not even try. I couldn’t do that either. So we went.


By the time we got to the caves, I was starting to feel a bit better. We snapped a photo of us before the race and waited for our wave to start. Finally, it was our turn. Like last year, it was a good minute or two before we got to the actual starting line. Once I crossed it, I said, “Here we go!” I started jogging, weaving my way through people to get past the crowd. In addition to having to worry about my stomach, my muscle cramps, the sleepiness, and possible cataplexy, I am also slightly claustrophobic. It’s a wonder I can do this race without having a panic attack.

Choosing to Believe

The first seven minutes, I ran more briskly than usual. I had to remind myself to back off a bit once I found myself with a bit of elbow room. Hubby kept going past me. I pushed the feelings of jealously down, knowing that this wasn’t a race against him this year like it was last year. It was a race against me. I felt proud of him instead.
After about ten minutes, people started walking. I kept jogging. I was feeling a bit sore still, but I didn’t feel the need to walk. I turned on some music and settled into a pace I was comfortable with. I had no idea how far I’d ran as I decided not to wear my watch. I decided for this race the best possible strategy was to simply listen to my body. I was good for another ten minutes before things started feeling a bit difficult. I felt a twinge in my lower back. Oh, perfect. Sciatica flare up and still feeling like an IBS flare was possible while in a cave running a 5K. HA!

Sometimes when I’m faced with setbacks, I get angry. This was one of those times. As I was jogging, I started to think about all the things I’d endured since the last time I’d been on that very same course. I thought about the months of physical torture, er, therapy for my back and hip. I thought about the days where my narcolepsy symptoms impacted my life negatively. I thought about all the medications I’d tried and all the side-effects I’m still trying to manage. I let it sink in that after 16 months of treatment, I’ve made only small improvements, but at least it’s something. Finally, I thought of the narcolepsy community and how we fight battles every day of some sort. Sometimes the battle is with medications. Sometimes the battle is with the general public that lacks awareness and understanding of what it is like to live with narcolepsy. Sometimes it is a battle to get out of bed. Sometimes it’s battling the grieving process when you have to give yourself limitations. The list goes on. I decided my battle for that day was to run a 5K….to push myself a little past my comfort zone to see if I could beat the self-doubt I’d been carrying around for weeks. And so I kept running.  As I kept running, I thought about the race itself.  This race benefits children with disabilities in my area.  Who better to run for?  The shirts this year, which I love, say “I run so they can fly.”  Helping them was even more motivation to keep going.


Crossing the Finish Line

After twenty-five minutes of running, I came to a water station. My throat and mouth were feeling dry, so I slowed to grab a cup of water. As I dropped it into a trash, I thought I heard a volunteer say, “2.52 miles!” I was going to make it! But wait….that thought right there…the thought of finishing the race brought forth a feeling of tingling beginning in my skull. “Oh, no. Not now. I cannot have a cataplexy attack now.” I quickly turned my attention back to my music and my form, stifling my emotions. I did feel slightly weak and had a wave of sleepiness, but I remained upright. I was so thankful.


Finally, I rounded the last corner and could see the finish line. THE FINISH LINE! Holy moly, there it was! I started running faster, feeling a smile spread across my face. Just as I began to cross it, I caught sight of my husband, who was also smiling. “You did it! You ran the whole thing!” Yes…yes , I did.   If you ever ask a runner what their goal is and they say, “I just want to finish,” they are lying. Deep in the recesses of their mind, they have a number, however vague it may be. I was secretly hoping to do it in under 38:00. My time was 35:49. Crushed it, y’all! That’s not as quick as my time last year, yet it is a few seconds faster than my very first 5K. I was and still am extremely pleased.
As my husband and I made our way back to where we’d stashed our jackets, he asked me what made me run the whole thing. “I thought about all the crap I went through last year and just wanted one positive thing to come out of it.” Tears formed in my eyes, and my husband hugged me. “I’m proud of you.” You know what? I’m proud of me, too.
There’s a line in Florence + the Machine’s “Shake It Out” that I absolutely love: “It’s always darkest before the dawn.” The Children’s Therapeutic Learning Center Groundhog Run was my dawn. It served as a reminder to push myself to be more positive and to not let the struggles of living with a chronic illness get me so down that I lose my motivation to stop trying. Thanks to the race, I’ve started to believe in myself again.

I'm on the left.

I’m on the left.




  1. Kate says:

    Yay!! Totally inspirational, because I would be likely to give up at any of those points. So awesome you persevered through ALL of that!!

  2. Gina Dennis says:

    “I thought about all the crap I went through last year and just wanted one positive thing to come out of it.”

    THAT is a truly powerful statement. So many folks would just quit and then add that failure to the pile for later cleanup. But not you, my powerful and inspiring friend. YOU chose to begin a NEW pile, one that you need not clean up but could instead showcase with other accomplishments.

    I hope that others who face adversity can take away a strong lesson from your experience with this run. They can look at you and see that every success starts somewhere, big or small. Either ignore the pile of failures or clean that crap up, but either way DO NOT let it stop you from accomplishing your goals, big or small.

    You rock Heather. Keep posting, I love them all.

  3. Susan says:

    Congratulations! You did it! After my half marathon of pain in December, I’m building up my strength and distance very gradually. You’ve inspired me to get on that dreadmill today, since I’m not risking the icy streets outside. I may have to try Zombies Run on the treadmill, though I’m pretty sure those Zombies will catch me there.

    • admin says:

      Thank you, Susan! I’m sorry you have to use the dreadmill, but at least it’s something. Beat those zombies!

    • Jill says:

      I love the Zombies Run game! Isn’t it fantastic?!! I am lucky to live on the west coast where there are few days I must use the deadmill. Good for you for doing it anyway! And you’re doing it right by doing it gradually! Good luck with your next event! :)

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