A year ago I attended the Victory Program Eating Disorders in Sport Conference in Missouri knowing no one. I remember feeling nervous and unsure. But I was also eager to gain more knowledge, meet the professionals, and see what I could do to keep raising awareness as a coach and athlete.
This year the conference moved to Berkeley–a longer distance to travel, but an amazing location. And not only was I now speaking this year, but I also actually knew a few people ahead of time!
The adventures began when I attempted to figure out the BART system to get to Berkeley from the airport. I ended up bonding with a woman from New Jersey to figure it out (shoutout to Emma who sterilizes the air in creamer containers!).
I had extra fun ahead when I reached my Airbnb. Tired from the early morning and long day of traveling, I texted the host just as I was arriving. Only, I didn’t get a response. A stranger coming out of the apartment building eventually let me in. So I went right up to the room, rang the doorbell . . . and waited again. Finally, my host opened the door looking delirious and confused.
Apparently, my host had slept through the day and forgot to wash my sheets/prepare the bed. I tried to be understanding and figured this could be an isolated incident. I was, at the very least, glad to set down my luggage in a room. Not but a moment later, my host asked me for a quarter to do the laundry.
This situation wasn’t unlike my Airbnb stay in Dorchester in December, but at least this had a clean bathroom and a towel. I was thankful for a comfortable mattress, desk to get work done, and being in the heart of Berkeley (location, location, location!). With everything in its place, I left to explore.
Berkeley Day 2: Exploration, Dinner
After a beautiful day of walking around Berkeley, I met up with Traci Carson to head to the EDISC speaker dinner together. Traci has been working on a dissertation on eating disorders/disordered eating in athletes and amenorrhea, which she had a poster for at the conference. I’m thrilled about her work at the University of Michigan. It was exciting to talk in person at last and learn more about what she is finding through her research!
The dinner that night was excellent (tamales at a beautiful home in Oakland!). I couldn’t believe how welcomed I felt upon arriving, and how kind and enthusiastic everyone was. It was surprising to hear some of the attendees tell me they had heard of or read Running in Silence, or were looking forward to my talk the next day. I myself couldn’t wait for these speakers to share their work. Having gotten to know many of them over the year through social media, I could tell this was going to be a fascinating conference. I appreciate the work they do and made sure to emphasize that in my talk about my recovery process. I wouldn’t be where I am today without my own therapist and dietitian.
Day 3: Arriving at the EDIS Conference
I think back to when Kelly Kelley (Community Outreach Representative at McCallum Place Eating Disorder Centers) welcomed me the moment I arrived at EDIS one year ago. I remember she was one of the first of many to ask if I was a dietitian or therapist (“I’m an author…?” haha), but brought me in as one of their own. She has supported my book and message ever since and has been nothing but kind, encouraging, and wonderful to be around.
I’m not perfect and I don’t have it all together, but this group makes me feel like I can make a difference as I learn from them and offer my story to raise awareness and show those who struggle that this is happening, they are seen, and they can get better.
It’s also incredible to think that a year ago I had stumbled upon one of the leading experts in eating disorders in sports–Dr. Paula Quatromoni–and that her purchasing the Running in Silence book (two, actually!) from me would be a life-changing moment. Thank you Paula for taking a chance on me, for communicating with me months after our initial exchange, for believing in me and my message, for supporting it, and for collaborating with me on the website to answer tough questions from coaches and athletes. Paula was a huge part of helping me to get to where I am today, and she was one very important person we were missing from the conference this year.
The Running in Silence presentation itself went well. I’ve done a lot of introspection, overcome many doubts, and resurfaced after feeling like I was drowning in work and the big learning process that comes with starting a nonprofit. This presentation was like a comeback race for me. Not perfect, but something clicked, and I feel the real Rachael coming forward again. I’ve found that focusing on the message–not necessarily the perfection–is so important.
One woman (shout-out to Linda Samuels, Sports Dietitian) approached me before and after the presentation to thank me for the work I’m putting into this, and how she has been following me on social media. As I said, I’ve had my doubts and fears the past few months. I’m happy to reach out and help others, and sometimes I need encouragement, too. Linda helped me to remember that I’m doing the best I can and making a difference. It fuels the fire to keep going.
A Quick Trip to Novato, and the Athlete’s Village
This isn’t necessarily meant to be a travel blog but I do want to give a shout-out to Adam McAboy of The Athlete’s Village who hosted me on his podcast/the Athlete’s Village just a few months ago and connected me to his wonderful sister-in-law Kirsten Neff, who is also a writer. She and her family welcomed me in to their home in Novato, where I got to explore more of California after the conference.
I’m thankful for where travels take me and for the amazing people I’ve met through it all. The anxiety tells me to stay safe at home, and recovery tells me to push beyond those limits to see what ups and downs I’m capable of handling. The beauty of the land, the thrill of adventure, and the warmth of meeting and getting to know people around the country make it all worth it. Running in Silence has connected me to some incredible people.
And a final thank you to the followers of Running in Silence: thank you for believing in the message, for the encouragement, and for helping me to believe in myself. I remember that we have health and happiness to fight for. Thank you for taking this journey with me!