Category Archives: Team Challenge

Two days later and I’m still walking funny

Oh yes, my legs are still sore. But I don’t mind so much. That pain is simply the dull throb of accomplishment. I just ran my third half-marathon this past Sunday. It was the first of its kind to take place in my hometown of Raleigh, NC, so I was excited to be a part of the inaugural race. And somehow I was able to convince my husband to run with me for the first time! (First and last, I’m sure.)

race half-marathon rock'n'roll running jarrod hughes stephanie hughes stolen colon crohn's disease ulcerative colitis inflammatory bowel disease ibd blogI have been looking forward to this race for a long time. It’s the best training I’ve ever been able to put into one of my half-marathons. My previous two races I competed with Team Challenge to raise money for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation. (You can find lots of posts on here about those races and my training for them.) My first race in Vegas I signed up for a little late and I was already training for a triathlon at the time, so I was behind from the beginning in my training. For my second half, in Virginia, I struggled a lot throughout the training. I had broken my wrist a few months before, so I had stopped running altogether prior to training for that race. Plus,  I was having a lot of joint and muscle pain, to the point that up to a couple of days before the race, I didn’t think I’d be able to finish it. But some hot yoga, a deep tissue massage and a lot of praying later, I was able to make it the whole 13.1 miles and was only a few minutes off of my previous time.

But for this race, I wanted to put my best effort out there. I trained hard these past few months and I realized how un-fun it is to train in the winter. And while I did not totally keep to my training schedule, I feel very happy with the runs that I put in and the work that I did.

So this race for me was a chance to show what that hard work could do and to push past the times I had previously set.  And it was a little chaotic the morning we arrived at the race site. There were people everywhere! It was pretty evident that all 12,500 runners who had signed up for the race were there. But we made our way to the start line, waited in like 3 different bathroom lines and finally set off around 7:15 in the morning.

The beginning of the run felt good. We stayed together for the most part and set a really strong pace for the first few miles. But I see now that we may have come out a little strong in the beginning because we both hit a wall around mile 8 and ended up getting separated. But we pushed on.

It was a beautiful day for a race. About 75-degrees outside by the end of our time on the course, which is a bit warmer than anyone would prefer, but was still a nice day. The bigger problems were (1.) there was not a cloud in the sky, so the sun was just beating on your constantly and there was very little shade, and (2.) the course was so hilly! Now I spent most of my training at a local park that is a fairly hilly course, so I felt I was prepared for most any terrain, but man, there were way more hills than I expected. And it wasn’t all uphill, there was a lot of downhill, too, but in my opinion, that’s not much better. All I wanted the whole race was just some flat piece of road!

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I still felt good enough to keep up a slow run for the last mile and to crank out a sprint once the finish line was in site. It was so great to cross that line and to see my parents and my husband’s parents cheering me on as I crossed the finish line. And I was able to catch up with Jarrod a few minutes later.

My mom caught this picture of me as I was making my way over to them and I fills me with so much joy. It reminds me of why I do this. What I wrote about just a few weeks ago: I run because I CAN.

My ostomy behaved great all day and I did not have to make any pit stops in the middle of the run. I finished with a time of 02:21:05. That’s a full 10 minutes off my previous PR! 

Usually after my races, all I want to think about is doing nothing. (Actually after my last race I went ahead and had surgery two days later, so I literally did nothing for a while.) For the first time, this race left me with a feeling of “what’s next?” And while I don’t have an answer for that quite yet, I’m working on it…

2013 in review

As we all usually do at this time of year, I’ve been thinking back over everything that has happened over the course of 2013. When I look back at the beginning of the year, I can’t believe all that has happened in such a short time.

This has been a big year for me, in both good ways and some bad ways. Here’s my Top 10 major events from 2013, in no particular order:

top 10 list 2013 year goals achievements major events stephanie hughes stolen colon crohn's disease ulcerative colitis inflammatory bowel disease ibd ileostomy blog

At the beginning of the year, I was in a cast and had just made the decision to train for my second half-marathon. I had no plans to go ahead with another surgery. I was still just becoming comfortable with everything that comes along with being a health activist and sharing your story in a public setting. I had just gotten back my score on my GRE and was nervous about submitting my application for grad school.

medal half marathon team challenge medal hospital surgery studying grad school 2013 year goals achievements major events stephanie hughes stolen colon crohn's disease ulcerative colitis inflammatory bowel disease ibd ileostomy blog

All of these things seem like they happened so long ago. It amazes me to think that in just another year, I will probably be looking back on where I am right now and think that there’s no way it has only been a year.

Thinking back over this year as a whole, even with some disappointments, both in myself and in life in general, I am proud of how this year turned out and how I feel that I have grown during it. I am so thankful for the new friends I made this year and the new experiences I had. It makes me really excited for the year ahead. I am looking forward to making plans and setting goals for the next 365 days. 2014, I’m coming for you! 

Half-marathon #2: Take that Crohn’s!

Where to even start on this race recap… I suppose I’ll start at 3:30 a.m. because that is when I got up this morning. It really wasn’t that bad. When it’s race day, it’s usually fairly easy to wake up team challenge group cheer carolinas stephanie hughes stolen colon crohn's ostomy blogbecause your adrenaline is already pumping. The morning was uneventful as we got ready, grabbed all of our stuff and got some quick oatmeal for breakfast. The team got together for a quick group picture and we were off! (Pardon the blurriosity.)

We took the bus over to the vineyard, and set up to wait for the start of the race. This was a great part of the day because I got the chance to meet someone who I’ve been looking forward to seeing for a while. Rebecca, who is the lovely lady behind Caring for Crohn’s, and I started chatting a few months rebecca kaplan caring for crohns team challenge race morning half marathon stephanie hughes stolen colon ostomy blogback. We discovered that we were both bloggers who would be heading to Virginia for this race, so we’ve been keeping in touch and looking forward to officially meeting. She is doing Team Challenge for her husband, Dan, who was diagnosed with Crohn’s six years ago. It was great to catch up with both of them before the race and a perfect way to start the morning.

The race was set to start at 7 a.m., but buses were still pulling up at that time bringing runners, so they delayed the start for a little bit. I think we got underway around 7:20 a.m. I started the race off with Bret, another one of the mentors with the Carolina team, but he had a shoe issue about a half-mile in, so I took off ahead of him.

The run started off great. My hips weren’t hurting and I was keeping a good pace. I ran the whole first mile and after that I tried to keep a 4-minute run and 1-minute walk. That worked really well for me. I also decided to walk through all of the water stops and that was definitely a good idea, especially since it got up to the low-80s by the time we finished.

Around the 4 mile marker, I started chatting with another lady from Team Challenge who was keeping a similar pace to me. We stayed together for probably 5 or so miles and I found out that she was running for her daughter who has Crohn’s and was diagnosed at age 8. Her daughter, who is now 14, just had surgery to get an ileostomy in February. I told her about my surgery and what a difference it has made in my life. It was such a great connection to make and to assure her that her daughter would still have a full, beautiful life.

We split up around mile 9 and I took off on my own. I started getting chills, which worried me a little, so I slowed up a bit and did a lot more walking on those final 4 miles, which was fine to me. I got a chance to take in some of the beautiful scenery around me. I finally made it to the final corner, which was about the final 0.1 of the race, and I had just enough energy left for a sprint to the finish!

run half marathon virginia wine country stephanie hughes stats stolen colon crohns ostomy blogMy official running time was 02:34:08, which is about an 11:41 pace. I am so excited about that! When I think back to how difficult things were for me in March and how just 3 weeks ago I could hardly walk across the room, and to be able to come within a few minutes of my Vegas time… I don’t even know how to express how amazing that feels. And I should never have expected to PR today with the heat and humidity that we were dealing with.

But I came across that finish line strong and proud of myself for making it there again. I’m still very sore sitting here writing this, but that’s OK. I consider being sore after a race a badge of honor and I don’t mind it one bit.

And a big shout out to everyone who participated today with Team Challenge! You all are awesome and it was an honor to run with all of you!

Hello, Team Challenge! (Day 1 in Virginia)

I survived the 4 1/2 hour drive up from Raleigh to Leesburg, VA, today! I think that’s the farthest I’ve ever driven by myself. And honestly, it wasn’t that bad. Jarrod and I got up early to get me over to the rental car company. (We realized it would actually be cheaper to rent a car with good gas mileage to drive than it would be to drive the Tahoe.) I set off at 7:20 a.m. and got here just before noon. It was an uneventful trip, which is always best.

leesburg virginia team challenge view scenic stephanie hughes stolen colon crohns ostomy blogI went immediately in search of food and stopped for a turkey sandwich and salad. I tried the hotel while over there and they told me that my room was already available even though check in wasn’t for another few hours. I went ahead and got settled into the room and made my way over to the race expo to get my race bib and sign in. I was pretty tired by this point and didn’t feel like doing much, so I watched a little TV and relaxed for a little bit. Then got up for a shower and made myself presentable right about the time everyone else was arriving.

We had a group meeting earlier and it was great to finally get to sit down with everyone who’s a part of this. A couple of people I had never even met. We went through all of the details we will need for the race tomorrow and made sure we all know where we’re supposed to be and when. The coach talked a lot about the weather for tomorrow and said that no one should be trying to PR tomorrow (race speak for setting your personal record.) This actually made me feel a little better. I was never going for my best time, but I still felt that I should be improving and not doing worse than my last race. Because of the heat, she said you should plan to add at least 10 or maybe 20 minutes onto your expected time. It could be a long day…

team challenge pasta party virginia spirit lineAnd I just got back from the day before the race pasta party. This part is, to me, the most important part of this whole thing. It’s where everyone comes together and cheers each other on and knows that we are all there for the same reason. The run is kind of secondary to that. It was a great night of hearing inspiring stories and learning that, as a group, the Virginia runners have raised over $950,000! That’s just amazing and I’m so proud to be a part of it.

But I need to sign off now. The race starts in less than 10 hours and I’ll be waking up in less than 7. I’ll be back after those 13.1 miles!