Today I have a Q&A with Angela Colulombe. Her story is absolutely incredible and so inspiring. She has Lyme Disease and was unable to even walk or get dressed by herself and has now qualified for the Boston Marathon. She is truly amazing.
Tell me about your running story! Why did you start running? How long have you been running? When did you qualify for the Boston Marathon?
I started running in 2006 at the suggestion on a friend, Lisa Labonte. Both she and I had enrolled our young children in Taekwondo and started to do TKD with them. As part of TKD, you need to spar, and I found that I was getting “puffed out” easily. Lisa suggested I start running to help build up my stamina, cardio and endurance. She told me about a group of runners who meet local to our workplaces, Tuesday and Thursday at lunch time, and I have been running with that group since. When I first started running, I was completely clueless. I didn’t have the right foot gear or apparel, but I did have a lot of enthusiasm for it. From August 2007 – April 2009, I was not able to run or do any activities due to Lyme Disease. I was reduced to a near invalid, unable to walk properly, lift my legs to dress myself, lift my arms over my head, etc. Prior to Lyme I could run a mile easily in 7minutes. My first mile in April 2009 took 45 minutes of stopping/ starting, walking, jogging, crying, shouting at myself, nose blowing, laughing at the absurdity of the situation, but it also made me more determined than ever to regain what the disease had taken away from me. Again, with my friend Lisa, I began working hard to try to run again. The Tuesday / Thursday group were so supportive, never leaving me behind when they could have easily done so. And, I made up my mind that if I could recover, I would do something to help others with Lyme and do something to raise awareness about the disease. I decided I would run a marathon, my first marathon ever, and not just any marathon, but the NYC marathon (and I finally started to dress appropriately, discovering Brooks Running which I have worn religiously ever since!!). In November 2010, after my three year struggle with the disease, I ran the NYC Marathon in 4:12:58 and also got the marathon bug (brief video of the experience can be found here: http://www.lymerunner.com/?p=318). That’s when Lisa and I decided we needed another goal to work towards, qualifying for the Boston Marathon for our 50th birthdays. Last year I did that, I qualified for my age group (49 yr old) by running the Hartford Marathon in 3:41:35 (details here:http://www.lymerunner.com/?p=417), which I hope to run now is April 2014.
What is your training schedule like?
Well, that’s an interesting question. Right now I am also doing some triathlons, so I’ve been doing a lot of cross training and brick work as well as running with my Tue/Thu group. My next triathlon is June 9, so I’ve been spending weekends getting up at 5am to swim, bike and run at Cape Elizabeth, a very hilly area. I also do strength training 3x a week, a core workout and a class on Thursday nights called “Ultimate Body Conditioning”. It’s like boot camp on steroids and isn’t for the faint hearted. It’s run by Linda Burgess, a body builder who’s motto is that she’s old enough to be your mom, but strong enough to be your father!! This year I am running the Chicago marathon in October and will start training for that in July using Hal Higdon’s intermediate 1 http://www.halhigdon.com/training/51139/marathon-intermediate-1-training-program but mixing into that one day a week of interval training which a group of friend and I do at our local track, during the summer or hottest months in Maine, so for this, we get up at 4am to be at the track at 5am for an 1.5 hr workout before it gets too hot and humid.
What are some of your running goals and dreams?
My goal right now is to run “The Big 5 for Lyme”, meaning, NYC, Boston, Chicago, London and Berlin, all to continue to raise awareness about Lyme disease. So, I can check NYC off the list, Chicago after this October, hopefully Boston after next April, I will try to do Berlin that autumn and then hopefully finish up in London in April of 2015. I also would love to knock some more time off my 3:41 marathon time, so would love to run Chicago in 3:30 or around that time. And, one of my biggest accomplishments has been the start of an annual race, Jimmy the Greeks Maine Mall 5K for Lyme Disease Awareness, to bring together the Lyme community and to help raise awareness and prevention about the disease. In its inaugural year we had over 290 runners and walkers participate, and this year, the 2nd year of the event, we had over 400 runners and walkers participate. On the very flippant side, the group of women friends I run with also would love to have our own reality TV show called, “The Real Runners of New England” because, as you probably know, a lot happens on the running path!!!
What keeps your running through the hard times?
Well, for me, its really very personal. Remembering what it was like not to be able to walk, climb stairs, dress myself and knowing that I am one of the lucky Lyme survivors who can now not only walk but run, keeps me going. I have now met so many people who are affected by Lyme and cannot do what I can and will never be able to humbles me makes me more determined to run for them and for everyone who is struggling to regain their health and well being.
Could you possibly tell us a little bit about Lyme Disease and how it has personally affected you and your running?
Here is a piece I recently wrote so our senators in support of a piece of legislation, LD-597, which pretty much summarizes my experience with Lyme:
In August 2007, a week after I finished running the 10th Anniversary of the Beach to Beacon 10K road race, I started to experience the first symptoms of Lyme Disease, ie, a swollen right knee and mild joint aches. As weeks went by, I started to experience more Lyme related symptoms; muscle aches, migraines, nausea, fatigue and general lethargy on top of a continued swollen right knee and joint aches . I did not know anything about Lyme Disease so did not make any connection between my symptoms and the disease. In October 2007, 3 months after the onset of the initial symptoms, a bulls-eye rash appeared on my upper arm. I showed my mother who did know about Lyme who suggested I see my PCP immediately. My PCP sent me to an ID who diagnosed me with Lyme Disease, gave me 3 weeks of doxycycline (standard CDC treatment) and told me I’d be fine. Three weeks later I was anything but fine. I could no longer turn my head, lift my arms up over my head, dress myself, climb stairs unassisted, get in and out of bed unassisted, roll over in bed unassisted, look after my two small children or carry on anything resembling the normal life I had lived. The pain in my joints was overwhelming. Living meant dealing with the pain on a minute-by-minute basis to try to make it through the day. I phoned the infectious disease specialist back telling him I thought I needed more antibiotics as I was so sick I could not move. He refused to prescribe more saying that what I was experiencing had nothing to do with Lyme and was simply old age and arthritis (though I was only 43 at the time and had NO signs of any arthritis in all the tests done along with my initial Lyme test). I had no idea what I would do next. This was the end of October 2007.
By mid November 2007, I wished to die. With no cure, no help and no hope in sight, I could not see myself , once an active athlete and caring mother, living the life of an invalid while enduring the most excruciating pain I have ever known in my life (and as a veteran of two home births out of choice, I know a bit about pain). My sister told me of a DO who was Lyme literate and might be able to help me. A beacon of hope came into my life.
I first saw this DO at the end of November 2007. I was put back onto antibiotics and a month later, by my own request to try to not take antibiotics, I was put on the Zhang protocol to fight coinfections with Babesia and Bartonella. Progress was slow, but progress was made. I started to regain my strength, appetite and ability to look after my children. By April of 2009 I was off all supplements and I was able to start exercising again. By November 2010, I ran the New York City Marathon in 4:12:58. In 2012 I completed these races/ triahtlons with these times: (visithttp://www.lymerunner.com/?p=417 <http://www.lymerunner.com/?p=417> for a recap)
January 15, 2012 – Jimmy the Greeks Frozen 4 miler: 31:02 (run in 8F weather!)
February 5, 2012 – Mid Winter Classic (10 miles): 1:24:10 (slightly warmer, 24F)
April 7, 2012 – Burns Run for Education: 5k 21:00
April 29, 2012 – Jimmy the Greeks Maine Mall 5k for Lyme Disease: 23:08
May 5, 2012 – Polar Bear Tri: Clock Time: 1:18:51.2
Swim: 12:42, Bike: 37:33, Run: 23:37
June 6, 2012 – Pirate Tri: Clock Time 1:26:57.9
Swim: 12:39, Bike: 48:34, Run: 22:24
July 29, 2012 – Tri for a Cure Triathlon (part of relay team Lymphomaniacs, my sister has Lymphoma, she rode, a friend swam, I ran 5K): 21: 36. (that’s a 6:58 pace mile my first PR for the year.)
August 5, 2012 – Beach to Beacon 10k: 48:58.7 (crazy hot humid day, 85F)
September 9, 2012 – The Nation Tri, Washington, DC. Runner in relay team: 46.46 second PR of the year for a 10K. Our relay team came in 6th place!!
October 13, 2012 – Hartford Marathon 26.2: 3:41:35 and qualified in my age group for the Boston Marathon, which I intend to run in 2014.
What is your advice for runners going through a hard time to stay positive and to keep running? How did you go from not being able to walk to now qualifying for the Boston Marathon?
I’ve been very, very fortunate to have discovered and built a network of friends who are runners and we all support each other. We all plan our runs together, our running events, our training. We have formed a really tight bond and we all help each other push through those times when we might not be feeling it. We do it with humour and hard work. I think it is important to have friends who are runners or if you don’t have that, to find a running group who can help support you through times when you might be having some difficulties. I could not have done what I’ve done without the love and support of my husband, my children, my extended family and my friends. When I wanted to give up, my husband would not let me. He has been and continues to be, my biggest supporter and best friend. He encourages me to give everything my all and he is always with me at every race as my “back up” man. I truly owe him my life!