The In Between

Hi, I’ve missed youuuuuu!

Really, I have.

I’m here today to talk about this weird place I’m in right now — a place I’m not at all comfortable being, and not in that edgy “push yourself out of your comfort zone” kind of way.

These are my zebra pants and I LOVE THEM.
These are my zebra pants and I LOVE THEM. This picture doesn’t really serve a purpose except for me to show you my zebra pants.

Let’s go back in time for a sec.

Nearly one year ago, after months of continuous Crohn’s disease flare-ups, I was finally admitted to the hospital so the doctors could do every un-fun test imaginable in hopes of figuring out something — anything — that might ease my pain and help me get back to a “normal” lifestyle.

The hospital was terrible and I hated it there. The tests were unpleasant, the doctors were constantly M.I.A. and the nurses were rude and clueless and kept messing up my medications.

But then something wonderfully miraculous happened.

I was discharged from the hospital, I walked the five blocks home to my apartment and the next day I woke up and I was better.

Just like that.

Just when I think I'm ready to leave NYC...I wake up to crap like this.
Just when I think I’m ready to leave NYC…I wake up to crap like this.

I went to my friend’s fancy wedding, I returned to work and, best of all, I could run again.

New York is the worst.
New York is the worst.

In fact, just one week after I left the hospital, I got right back into marathon training and ran the Bronx 10-Miler. I even tacked on a few warm-up and cool-down miles to make it a 16-mile run, keeping me right on schedule with what was at the time my New York City Marathon training schedule.

Almost instantaneously, I went from being sick to being healthy.

There was no in between. Just a happy girl with a fresh marathon PR.

But now, here I am, one year later and stuck in this in-between place.

I hate the in-between place.

[I know that as an editor I should know when to hyphenate in-between and when not to, but I don’t and I don’t have it in me to learn grammar right now, so just go with it, won’t you? Thanks.]

You know the saga that has been 2013. Awful, terrible, 2013.

Just a quick reminder to show you how pretty I am. You may have forgotten, since it's been a while.
Just a quick reminder to show you how pretty I am. You may have forgotten, since it’s been a while.

I got sick in January. I got worse in February. By March I was again admitted to the hospital, and throughout April, May, June and July I spiraled hard, all the way down to rock-bottom. It was bad.

Forcing a sick smile with my new buddy Mini Boo. Theodora gave him to me for my birthday. His striped T-shirt is exactly my style.
Forcing a sick smile with my new buddy Mini Boo. Theodora sent him to me for my birthday. His striped T-shirt is exactly my style.

By mid-July, my new doctor seemed to have found a combination of medications that would work for me: weekly Humira injections plus 100 mg/day of 6 MP (an oral medication). I was also on Budesonide, a steroid, and a few other things to treat specific symptoms, like the arthritis and the bloating and wow I’m beautiful.

I worked my way back into “real life” slowly. After spending seven months horizontal on my [then-shitty] couch, just walking down the block was a challenge. I started off with spin classes and I couldn’t even get my leg up on the bar to stretch afterward (uh, remember when I used to be a dancer and would watch entire episodes of “Saved By the Bell” in a split?). The subway stairs completely exhausted me. (Dang it, they still do. They always will.) And getting back into running was perhaps the hardest thing I’ve done in my adult life.


Those first few runs back were so unbelievably difficult. Every stride felt off, every breath was labored and there’s a reason I haven’t searched for my Garmin since last December.

Now, I’d say I’m operating at about 92% of my full health potential.

92% is enough to get back on the dance floor. Oh hell yeah.
92% is enough to get back on the dance floor. Oh hell yeah.

That’s an A-.

But I’ve always been an A+ kind of girl, and I’m struggling with the fact that I feel like I should be back in A+ mode and I’m not.

I’m trying to find the balance in my recovery period. And I’m having a hard time calling it a recovery period. How long does an arbitrary “recovery period” last? I don’t know.

Last year, my “comeback” was so easy. Even at my sickest, I hadn’t had to take much time off from work or working out, so I was able to bounce back after my time in the hospital fairly quickly and effortlessly. It probably helped that in the course of my illness, I’d lost some weight, and it turns out running when you’re lighter is easier. Oh, science.

This time around, nothing feels easy — and nothing is lighter, that I’m sure of. And while I’m usually up for a challenge, sometimes I just want it to be simple.

I’d love to say that life has seamlessly returned to business as usual, but it just hasn’t, no matter how hard I’ve tried. In a surprise perhaps only to me, the transition back to “regular life” has been difficult.

When it comes to my current state of running, things are great in the sense that I am, in fact, running! Last time we talked, I wasn’t. I had started running again, upped my mileage perhaps a bit too rapidly, and developed an unpleasant achy-pain in my right Achilles tendon-ish area.

I took three weeks off from running, which was a bummer. I was finally back!…and then I was out again, but for a totally different reason.

Once the pain was gone completely, I gave it a few extra days to fully heal, and then did a few slow, short runs here and there. Now I’m running again, hooray joy to the world! It’s tough, though. The runs that now qualify as “mind-blowingly amazing” would have completely discouraged me a year ago. So I’m just learning to readjust my goals and expectations. And it’s not all bad and tough: I really am grateful every time I get to lace up and run, even if I do have to still make 10 bathroom stops along the way.

I spent this past long weekend up in the luscious Vermont mountains. I decided to run the second day I was there. See this incline? Imagine that for like, five more miles. Up AND down. Turns out, the down hurt more, and I couldn't walk normally for six days.
I spent this past long weekend up in the luscious Vermont mountains. I decided to run the second day I was there. See this incline? Imagine that for like, five more miles. Up AND down. Turns out, the down hurt more, and I couldn’t walk normally for six days.

So running has been roller coaster-esque. I expected it to come back naturally and easily, which was naively optimistic. I thought I’d be knocking out my “regular” 8:00/mile paces in no time. Instead, my miles are slow and my recovery time takes twice as long as it used to. My body seems to be requiring much more delicate care than it ever did, but I’m happy to give it that if it means I can keep moving. Punch me for being cheesy if you’d like, but each run really does feel special to me these days.

Nothing like a year of being sick to finally give you the kick you need to learn to be grateful for life, right?

Then there’s work.

Just another day on set with Dance Spirit...
Just another day on set with Dance Spirit… This was back in January at a photo shoot in Indiana. I woke up that morning and knew I was getting sick. This was Day 1.

Being out of work was so hard for me. I was heartbroken when I was told I had to go on medical leave and could no longer work from home. It was like a punch to my already beaten-up gut. Getting that email was when I realized the battle I was fighting was so much more than physical.

I’m back in the office as much as possible now. I still have to take time off for doctor’s appointments, bloodwork, things like that. But mostly I’m back, which is nice because that time without a paycheck was unpleasant and I just missed doing my job and being around people.

Yes, I DO take my job seriously...
Yes, I DO take my job seriously…

Again, though, the transition is hard. Things shifted around a lot while I was out, and it’s hard trying to move them back to where they used to be.

Beyond work and running, I currently feel a general sense of anxiety most of the time.

I used “but I’m sick” as an excuse for a lot of things when I was sick. Maybe it’s not an excuse since it was absolutely the truth, but I stopped doing everyday things like responding to emails and returning phone calls and being a good person/friend/sister/daughter/aunt/girlfriend/roommate.

My attempt at being a good girlfriend again: Going to Brian's 4-day stage race in Vermont and getting hands full of blisters from cowbelling and chalking the street.
My attempt at being a good girlfriend again: Going to Brian’s 4-day stage race in Vermont and getting hands full of blisters from cowbelling and chalking the street.

I’m trying to put the pieces of my life back together and I think the greatest lesson I’ve learned this year is that I really need to chill out, calm down and ease up.

Stress makes me sick.

Anxiety makes me sick.

I really don’t think I could handle getting sick again the way I was sick this year. And if I don’t want that to happen again, I need to take better control of my life by not being so obsessed with control. That makes sense.

At the top of the world this weekend, in more ways than one. Awwww.
On top of the world this weekend, in more ways than one. Awwww.

Maybe my running isn’t as fast as I want it to be.

Maybe my body and its new “soft and completely un-toned” form isn’t the way I want it to look.

Maybe I won’t ever respond to all 156 emails in my inbox (sorry, love you).

And maybe that’s just the way it’s going to be for a while.

Maybe “the in between” will last three months and maybe it’ll last 10.

I’m learning — kind of slowly — to chill.

To throw expectation out the window.

To be kinder to myself.

To take things one day…one hour…one perfect mid-run step on a very crunchy leaf…at a time.

Central Park, you will forever be my happiest place.
Central Park, you will forever be my happiest place.

And hey, thank you for sticking with me throughout all of this. While I mostly haven’t been blogging because I just haven’t had time, I’ve also found it challenging to put my mess of thoughts into a cohesive post. I realize that much of it comes across in a way that makes me sound like an absolute head-case, and that’s partly true, of course, but I am doing my best to get my brain in the game and get it caught up to my A- body. Whether you’ve kept reading in anticipation of the latest ridiculous thing I’m willing to admit or because you’re a fellow Crohn’s kid who thinks this stuff actually makes sense and is mildly relatable, I truly, madly, deeply appreciate it.

I love you.

Happy Thursday!



55 Responses

  1. I have to admit, it’s been a while since I was able to catch up on how you’veb een doing and then saw you hadn’t been running and then saw this post! I AM so glad you’r eon the mend and you know sometimes life hands us a break and we either take it and enjoy it or we end up worse off and you were super smart! So inspiring girlie!

  2. So true, Ali! I love your words about being in the now! And being kinder to yourself- Loving yourself! You are the best ! Hoping to share this post with my daughter with Crohn’s!

  3. Just discovered your blog and really thankful I did – your positive attitude and honesty are wonderful and I hope that you keep feeling better and stronger each day. The awesome fall weather should help some too 🙂

  4. I realize I’m really really late to the party, but I figure it never hurts to hear this again: You don’t sound crazy at all! I can’t even imagine going through what you have dealt with this past year. Thank you for sharing! I’ll be cheering for you 🙂

  5. Ali,
    I am so glad things are getting better. Give yourself time to recover and heal. I know just how hard this is as I was where you were at about two years ago. I also have a very are time slowing down. Pushing to hard to soon only leads to set backs. Also all the meds do not only help but they do cause their own stress on our bodies. I had to learn what my new life was going to be like and that was hard and kind of depressing. I did learn that even though I am not where I had wanted to be it does get better and it is so much better then being in the hospital or on your death bed. I am so thankful for each good day and what a gift health is. I pray that this is just the start of more healthy and normal days for you. Way to hang in there and share your story with so many 😉

  6. I don’t mind the in between, because it means at least i’m not bottoming out. I was in the in-between for a few months, and just recently had the thought of how much better i was then earlier in the year. Not perfect but better. Almost immediately i wanted to take it back, for fear of jinxing myself. Which i think i did 🙁 Not awful, but spiraling down for sure. It is notable that it’s a somewhat unsettled stressful time in my life, which i’m sure has more to do then saying i feel good out loud. And then of course the worse i feel, the more i stress out about feeling worse. The more i waffle between stressing about EVERYTHING i eat making me sicker, and laying on the couch eating whatever might make me momentarily happy cause i feel so awful. So yeah, the stressing out probably doesn’t help. I’m not trying to be a downer, or take away from you feeling good. Because i am so happy for you, and it’s always so great to hear about people feeling better, hearing about (feeling like there could be) a light at the end. i guess i just needed a place where someone else gets it when i say,i think i’m getting sick again. Mostly though, yay for 92%. Remember an A is never something to stress about!

  7. Great post! Glad you are feeling much better. Giving up control and the ache for 100% is hard. I am trying that, too. I had a bad health scare in 2011. Now I can run almost as well as I used to when I was “100%” but I do it more gratefully and with more joy and I am 100% happy with it! And heck, most people never crest 90% so be grateful for “beating” them 🙂

  8. I have been following your journey for a while now, but have never commented. I just wanted to say that this post was such a pleasure to read. We are all so hard on ourselves- it’s an amazing thing when we learn to let go of expectation… even just a little. I have been running again for about 6 months now, after a 5+year absence (for very different reasons than yours, however). I have never been particularly fast, but I am still a highly driven perfectionist, and the fact that I am not able to perform as I once did is infuriating at times. I am ever so slowly learning to let it go, though. Hang in there… it will come back.

  9. Welcome Back! It’s so nice too see you again, even if it means looking at crazy Zebra pants. I hope you wore those to Brian’s bike race. They’d go great with chalk and cowbells.
    Good luck on learning to chill and readjusting your expectations. I know firsthand just how damn hard it is to do for type A list lovers, but it’s so worthwhile. I’m also glad you’re able to run again because its a fabulous outlet for stress, anxiety and frustrations.

  10. I am SO GLAD that you are doing better Ali!!!! this is the best news. And yes, while it isn’t as easy a comeback as last year, it IS a comeback and I do hope you are kinder to yourself and realize that what you are accomplishing now is nothing short of amazing. XO

  11. I always love it when the day starts with an Ali post, especially when you’re firmly on the mend! Really happy news. And when you’re ready to leave NYC, the Bay Area is calling your name 😉

  12. No matter how sick you are, your smile always looks SO genuine in all your photos. I love it. I’m glad you’re starting to feel better and I know it is frustrating not being able to jump right back into things. You’re being smart, and doing something is better than nothing. Also, when I saw you running in the park you looked strong and fast, so don’t be too hard on yourself!

  13. Welcome back! I’ve been looking out for your blog posts. Do keep blogging, about anything.

    Love that zebra pants though I probably won’t be that courageous to wear it. 🙂

  14. So glad to see you back – we love you too! We were in VT a few weeks ago, the hills are killer but the views amazing. LearnIng to let go and relax and be good to yourself is a journey and having a perspective that “it’s not life and death” can help….you continue to grow as a person through all of this and I hope you will reassess and see an A+ in the mirror real soon….

    Be well and keep dancing and smiling!

  15. Brian did the GMSR? I am so impressed! I wish I had known you were here. I watched the criterium on Monday but I was gone for the rest of the weekend. So he raced Ap Gap and Middlebury Gap! Very impressive. How did he do? Has he done it before? You were quite near where I live. Sorry I just made this all about Brian and biking. I was glad to see you had posted again. I was wondering how you were doing. Glad you are running again.

    1. Yes, he did! And I was in Burlington watching the crit, too — why didn’t I see youuuuu?! I would have loved that so much! We had the best day in Burlington. The cat 4/5 field was first, so then we spent the rest of the day watching the other groups ride and I escaped for a little run along the way. He survived all four days of the race so he seems happy with his performance!

  16. Hooray, glad you’re at 92%. The in-between is not a bad place to be, and hey, you can write a book called “The In-Between” and make tons of money and buy all the mango soap you want. But seriously, glad things are looking up for you. Cheers and big hugs.

  17. Yay, glad you are back!

    I suggest this with nothing but kindness and no judgment – have you thought about seeking help for the anxiety? A friend of mine was VERY sick for a year (due to a gallbladder problem that they could not diagnose) and she suffers from severe anxiety as a result, anxious about eating and how it will make her feel etc. She’s been working with a therapist and making great strides. Just a thought as something to help, not because I think you are a head case at all! You have handled this year SO much better than I ever would!

  18. Yay – glad you are back! I’m sorry this year has been rough for you. I can completely relate to this entire post (for different health reasons). The in between sucks and I feel like I have lost my mind most days! Glad to see you post!

  19. Welcome back Ali!!!! So happy to hear about the 92% report card. The in-between blows, and I’m terrible at it too. I always tell myself that the in-between in life is a lot like speed work when training (also, coincidentally, my arch nemesis), and the trick to mastering it is to get comfortable being uncomfortable. It makes me relax a little since I know it’s completely necessary and supposed to be hard, I just don’t want it to be. Hope that helps!

  20. Every time I read your post, it’s inspiring. You have such strength and determination. Don’t take that for granted! I also love the chalk – that must’ve taken a very long time!!!

  21. Nice to hear all those PR you achieved everyday, one day at a time is what i say, even though sometimes is really hard to understand that, life is sucha wonderful gift, and a healthy life is the best. I love your pants, I love the way you wrote, kepp doing it, and I love to run, keep going one step at a time.

  22. Wonderful news on the 92%, I’m very happy to hear it! You do your thing and just get better!

    PS – next post how about a tiny peek at that adorbs nephew? 🙂

    1. You saved me with those socks. I’m not even kidding. I wore them to the hospital and I wear them as often as possible. I get sad when I’m on my last pair and then have to do laundry. Nothing like neon animal print, I’m tellin’ ya.

  23. First let me say that you started back running in the armpit of summer with dew points over 70.
    And yes, it’s always a blow when you return to something and are a few rungs down the ladder than where you used to be. I remember after having surgery and being sidelined for a month I stressed so much about those first runs. I had to walk a lot and my speed was MUCH slower. But friends reminded me about the trauma that my body had been through and I needed to be patient. Well, almost a year later and I am faster than I was pre-surgery. I guarantee with every 92 percent day under your belt you will get that much closer to feeling like your running is A+ again. You already know what you need to do. Gosh why is anxiety such a hard nut to crack? If only we could treat anxiety as easily as as a paper cut. (hmmm well, now that i think about it i’ve had some really slow healing paper cuts=) Glad to read your post…Oh! and Vermont! I was actually across the lake in the Adirondacks a few weeks back running similar hills! It’s true, the downhills made my upper butt cheeks so sore. I’ve never felt pain there before=)

  24. Aren’t cowbelling blisters the WORST?! Bandaids and body glide help.

    YAY for feeling better, being kinder to yourself, and crunchy leaves. Sending you lots of well-wishes!

  25. This was such a wonderful and thoughtful post, Ali! Your posts always are. And “I need to take better control of my life by not being so obsessed with control.” makes PERFECT sense 🙂

  26. Love the pants! And this post! The in-between is a scary place, I’ve been there, but I know that that so called in-between or hallway of life is where we do the most growth.

  27. Glad things are looking up, Ali! I keep reading as a fellow Crohn’s kid because it all does make sense and helps me make sense of the craziness in my world, too. Thanks for your continued honesty! Hopefully that A+ is just around the corner.

  28. Glad to hear you’re feeling better! There really is something to be said with stress/anxiety and Crohn’s, it’s actually really annoying. My Crohn’s really started to calm down last fall when I let go of quite a few things and focused more on the happier things that were coming down the road. It’s been a difficult adjustment and certainly not seamless but it’s been working. Hopefully your recovery continues to go well, good luck!

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about ali

I’m the creator of the Ali on the Run blog and the host of the Ali on the Run Show podcast. I’m also a freelance writer and editor, a race announcer, a runner and marathoner, a mom, and a huge fan of Peanut M&Ms, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (way better than the first one!), and reliving my glory days as a competition dancer in the early 2000s. I’m really happy you’re here.
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