Setbacks Make Us Stronger…

I have no trouble admitting weakness, setbacks, and discouragement.  It has been a rough couple months and those feelings have been prevalent in my life recently.   Does it make me in a great mood to deal with these things?  NO.  I am sure that is true of a lot of people.  I understand that life is a roller coaster of amazingly awesome moments, followed sometimes closely by time of struggle and frustration.  I feel like that has been my year.  Some of the highest of my life, followed by some true tests of discouragement.  I am not always sure that I am doing a very good job of “passing” these tests, but I have moments of clarity throughout that “this too shall pass.”  I am guilty of not being the most pleasant person to be around when I am going through the “lows”.

A person can only feel on top of the world for so long before things settle back down and goes back to the normal ebbs and flows of life.  That’s how spring was for me.  I think life was at an all time high.  I met my fundraising goal of breaking the $10k mark for MS Run the US, training was going amazing, I placed in the top couple of runners in every race I entered, and I rocked my segment. I don’t think a single thing went wrong or brought my mood down.  I was tired from all the training, and I may not have had the best social life because of it, but that was to be expected with how much I was running and focused on my relay goals.  I knew post-relay would be hard, and I was right.  First there was the intense fatigue and barely making it through my work days without hitting a huge tired wall.   Then there was also the mental crash that came with loss of all the adrenaline that had been pumping through my system for months on end.  It was like quitting an addiction.  The withdrawal symptoms were rough.   Then the nagging injures which still cause me pain on almost every run I have gone on since June 14th when I pushed the pace to place 4th in a tough half marathon.  (UGH!)

You may be asking, “Why do you want to go through that again next year?”  Well, that’s easy.  I don’t have MS.  “WHAT?!” you ask.   Let me clarify.  If the worst thing I have to deal with in this life is feeling tired and dealing with high mileage running injuries then I am doing pretty good.  I could have a debilitating disease, such as MS.  This disease could cost me hundreds of thousands of dollars per year due to medical expenses and leave me not able to live my day to day life as I want to.  I am lucky to be in 100% control of my own body and even if I run with pain, at least I CAN run.  I feel that it is my duty as a fairly healthy person to run miles, raise money and awareness for those who live with a disease that they never asked for, but they have no choice to live with because there is NO CURE.  There are only ways to live with it, at a high price to that person and their family.  NOT FAIR.

This is why I NEED to run again next year.  It is my duty as someone who has the ability and means to do so.  In the way some people choose to serve their country by joining the military, I serve others less fortunate through what I am good at, running.  But in the same way that a soldier may get sent home after an injury, I worry sometimes that my body will not let me do what my mind wants me to continue to do.   Somehow I have managed to run 170 miles so far in the month of August.  I don’t think there have been many of those miles that didn’t hurt my left hamstring/glute/hip.  I have 4 main races to get through this fall and then starting on November 8th, I can start my couple of months of rest and recovery.  I am hoping and praying for healing so I can start fresh and pain free in 2016.  Running, I am NOT done with you yet!

Despite the tired, frustrated and painful last couple months, I can hands down say 2015 has been one to be thankful for. 12 months is a long time for everything to go right, but I was lucky enough to have 4 full months of awesomeness and success.  There is no way I can be upset with how this year has gone.  I just wasn’t ready to slow down yet, that’s all.  I know that PR marathon and half marathon are still in me, I just thought this fall would be when they would happen.  But apparently not.   Maybe it’s time to let them go.  Slowing down my pace in order to make it through a run is better than not running at all, but dang it, I wasn’t ready yet!

I didn’t want to slow down, but if it means recovering in order to run the MS Run the US relay next year, then so be it.  Because slow and steady is still running, and I have not given up on the big picture, which is doing my part to help those with MS!  It may take me hours longer to cover the distance next year due to my slower pace, but I am determined to be a part of the best group of people I have ever known: The MS Run the US relay members.  These are 18 of the hardest working, selfless, and amazingly inspirational people I have ever followed.  And I use the work “follow” because I do not personally know hardly any of them.  But I check up on their progress daily as they train and raise funds for this cause.   They motivate me and I want to be more like each and every one of them.  I truly believe that by surrounding yourself (even through social media) with hard working, amazing, giving and wonderful people, they do rub off on you!   If someone brings you down, let them go.  You do not need them.  If someone makes you better, never let them go!

I am lucky to have a LOT of people in my life who bring me UP and make me better.  And even when I am not the easiest person to deal with- like recently- they do not give up on me.  They say “What can I do Nikki?”   Special recognition goes out to my boyfriend Bryan and my best friend and running buddy Sam for most directly dealing with me these past two months as I have been struggling to pull myself up and out of the hole I feel like I fell in. (And of course the cats, Maeby, Sumtymes, Purrhaps and Allwayz.  They don’t know it because they are cats, but they are the joy in my life and my family.)  They both have the endless optimism that I wish I had, but I don’t.  I think I am missing the constant positivity gene.  I am positive when things are going well, and when they are not, I am a huge negative Nancy (as Bryan says- and as no offense to my mother).  So I relay on him to be positive for me.  Poor guy, I don’t know how he deals with me.  Probably for the cats… 😉  And Sam constantly tells me how talented a runner I am and how I will bounce back and be stronger.  So thank you (and all my other friends and family!!! No one to be left out here!) for the support and dealing with my recent mood swings on a daily basis.  I love you both and would not be standing on two feet, much less still somehow managing to run 170 miles this month, without you.   Thank you for being there cheering for me during the biggest accomplishment of my life so far.  You have NO IDEA what that means to me!

So here’s to the bigger picture of running for something bigger than myself, supportive friends, cuddly cats, and moving forward, ONE MILE AT AT TIME.   I CAN and I WILL!  #RunHappy

Run Happy,

Nikki 🙂

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My biggest fans. 🙂

Some links you may be interested in!   2015 Video Recap!

2016 Fundraising Page:   http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/nikkicahen/msruntheus2016relay

MS Run the US- Round 2: 2016!

Here we go again!!!  Some people may be thinking: “Oh no…”, others “She’s still crazy…” and hopefully at least some of you will be fist pumping the air and saying “LET’S CURE MS!” like I am. 🙂

A new year means starting back at zero for fundraising and once again a lot of hard work and planning a variety of fundraisers to get to $10,000 or more over the next year.  But I have a full year and that is a lot of time!!  It is a little daunting to think of starting back at zero and working back up to $10,000.  But yet, it is exciting to think that a year from now I will have raised OVER $22,000 for MS in less than 2 years time!  WOW!  That right there is enough to bring me back for more.  In my lifetime, (due to 5 years of riding in the MS Bike ride and fundraising anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 each year for that) I am already over $20,000 for the cause.  So after the 2016 relay I will have raised over $40,000 for Multiple Sclerosis!  FORTY THOUSAND DOLLARS!  How motivating and awesome is that?!  This is why I want to run again.  Because you can’t beat this feeling!  The feeling of knowing that even though there are millions of people in this world, I can still do everything in my power to make a difference, even if it is small in the grand scheme of the world.

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I also know that running again means wondering if my body can physically handle the intense training and mileage again.  To be honest, that is the part that worries me more, due to my current nagging injures and aches and pains.  But once again… I have a lot of time.  I do not have to start official “ultra” training until sometime in March.  Lots of time to get healed up and as good as new.  I also tend to feel that the motivation and adrenaline of running with a greater purpose in mind, rather than just training for myself, somehow helps keep the injuries at bay and tolerable.  That’s probably my wishful thinking, but that’s how I felt this spring when I ran 60-95 mile weeks for several months in a row.  It was crazy to me that I was able to keep my injuries mostly in check from February til the end of May.  Much of that was due to regular massage and some physical therapy, but still, what a miracle!  There has to be a reason for it, and I think it was the fact that my motivation was through the roof.  You can do anything when you are running on pure adrenaline!!

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I am so thankful for all the people in my life that gave to my segment of the MS Run the US relay in 2015.  I hope you will consider helping me once again reach $10,000 in 2016.  I cannot do it without you.  With the help of my great friend and mentor, Dan Stefanich, I am working on coming up with some new fundraisers, new ways to reach out to new donators, and improve those fundraisers that were a big success last year.  I am excited about all our new ideas, as well as the improvements we want to make on some of the things we did last year that were very successful (such as Karma!  Get pumped for Karma round 2, Feb. 2016!!) 🙂

Why do I do this besides that I love to run?  And the obvious that it is a good cause?  As I’ve mentioned in the past, I have realized over the years that I am so lucky to have the physical ability to move my body as I choose.  I choose to run and lead an active lifestyle.  Besides some nagging injuries, I have no real trouble doing this.  Not everyone is that lucky!  I realize this but I cannot imagine it.  I cannot imagine what diseases like MS does to a persons life.  I have never had to, and I hope I never do.  But we never know which of us will end up with something that changes our quality of life and makes it so we do not get to live life the way we choose.  It is not fair, and in a way, life is a gamble for all of us.  At any moment things can change.  So I run and am a part of this relay to do my part to let those with MS know I am thankful for my health and I will do everything in my power to help cure MS!  If that means raise $10,000+ a year and run thousands of miles, I will do it.

I think it is our duty as healthy individuals to help and raise awareness for those who are not so lucky AND HAVE NO CONTROL OVER THIS!  Whether that be running 160 miles in 6 days, or giving a donation if you do not want to be the person to run the miles.  That’s what people like me are here for. 😉  We run and give our time, money and motivation to hopefully get people to WANT to donate to a great cause.  That’s what it means to be a relay runner.  You think we are crazy, which maybe we are, but it gets your attention hopefully, GIVE!  We teach each other that it feels good to give to those less fortunate.  That is what I have learned over the past year since I started putting my energy into MS Run the US.

Life can be filled with negativity, hurt, heartache, depression, and other hardships.  But it can also be positive, because we can be thankful for everything we have.  A little thing like giving to a non-profit like MS Run the US can be enough to make your day better because you are making a difference.  This is what the relay has done for me.   I guess I am meant to do this, because in the couple of months since my fundraising goal for 2015 has been met and my 165 miles run, I have not felt as happy.  I felt lost and like my purpose was gone.  There were no adrenaline rushes, or good endorphins anymore.  I haven’t had as good of an attitude about life, and I felt bored and fatigued with my day to day routine.  All it has taken is starting to look forward to the 2016 MS Relay to start to feel better.  So I know this is my purpose in life.  I am very excited for another year of fighting to CURE MS!  🙂  Woooot!

Check out my video from my 2015 segment if you have not already seen it!  Or view it again because it is pretty sweet 😉

Click here –> 2015 Video Recap!

If you want to check out the new fundraising site, share with friends, or make an early donation to get 2016 started, here is the link!

http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/nikkicahen/msruntheus2016relay

Thanks for the support to everyone who has helped me on this journey so far!!

Run Happy,

Nikki 🙂

My Bobble Head for the MS Run the US website! :)

My Bobble Head for the MS Run the US website! 🙂