I recently took on my first book tour 11/29 through 12/7, landing in Boston, driving to Vermont to speak at Saint Michael’s College, driving back to Boston to speak at BU, driving to Rhode Island to speak at URI (Kingston), and back to Boston for one last talk at BU. The following details my journey on Wednesday 11/29 through Thursday 11/30.
Book Tour Day 1: Up at 3:30am, arrived in Boston by 9am, grabbed a rental car and I was off for a 4-hour drive to Colchester, VERMONT!
To say that it was a beautiful drive would be an understatement. I hadn’t looked much into Vermont with the limited time I had in the weeks leading up to this mini book tour (it felt like I was just suddenly on this trip–it came up FAST!) so I had no idea what I was getting into, but it was a very pleasant surprise.
A quick description: Miles upon miles of tree-lined roads, Moose Crossing signs (we have DEER crossing signs in Michigan), rolling roads, vast expanses of mountains (not sure if they were mountains, but they were definitely mounds bigger than what you see in Michigan). I was in awe, and the moment I arrived at Saint Michael’s College, I couldn’t stop telling everyone I met about my drive (the student athlete journalist who interviewed me for the school newspaper, the photographer for the school newspaper, and later my host Emily and the SAAC leader and the athletic director… the list goes on).
After the interview and a brief tour around St. Michael’s College, I retreated to my hotel where I checked in and immediately passed out for 12 hours. My body REALLY needed it.
Book Tour Day 2: The next morning was one I had been looking forward to for a LONG time. Emily Kopacz and I had been communicating for months (perhaps nearly a year now?) and she was the one who had the idea of having me come speak at her school. By raising her voice, and connecting with SAAC (Student Athlete Advisory Committee), they were on it. And here we were, months later, meeting for the first time in PERSON! I had tears in my eyes as we greeted. These meet-ups with Running in Silence followers/readers/friends feel more exciting to me than meeting a celebrity.
That afternoon I had lunch with the Saint Michael’s SAAC group, where they asked me great questions about how I handle eating disorders as a coach, and what they can do going forward based on my experiences (as a coach, and as a runner recovered from an eating disorder). The questions were great, and made me realize that at this point our greatest hurdle may be having the right resources available to aid students. With the lack of a dietitian and perhaps conflicts with times to meet with counselors, getting help can be tricky.
We also talked about how coaches may have the best of intentions, but may unintentionally say the “wrong thing” because of their lack of knowledge of eating disorders or nutrition in general. As a coach myself, I know there’s a lot to deal with and to add “therapist” or “dietitian” to the description of a coach, it’s simply impossible. But this is why we need the right resources, and for coaches to understand how prevalent eating disorders are in sports, how to identify them, and where to direct their athletes for professional advice/therapy. Coaches can be a great area of support for the athlete, and for leading them in the right direction.
Right after this discussion, I was off to meet with the Athletic Trainers for a similar talk (I was so impressed by the school taking full advantage of my visit there. LOVED this!). We ran into similar issues—having the right resources to direct athletes to, and that while trainers love being like therapists to their athletes (listening to them), the trainers can’t give the athletes the time they need like the trainers would like to. They wanted to know a lot about how to approach an athlete. They mentioned how breaking the stigma on campus helps.
The presentation that night went very well. The whole school was behind me on this—encouraging all athletes to attend, advertising, greeting me, etc. The man setting up the stage was so welcoming, helpful, and even bought one of my books after the presentation (go check out his meal prep business he started if you’re in the Chittenden County, Vermont area: Jay Allen Meal Prep). The athletic director (Chris Kenny), SAAC leader (Shannon Kynoch), and so many others came up to me before and after the presentation to thank me for being there. It was such a welcoming, kind, excited community. I love that they are working towards a better environment for their students/athletes. It’s one of the best I’ve seen so far.
I’m always nervous for presentations (the nerves are similar to racing again), but it was great to be surrounded by such an uplifting community. During the presentation itself, I know that I can’t be perfect—striving for perfection makes me sound robotic. As I fell into a rhythm, I found the real Rachael break through, and that’s what I’ve felt is best in my talks.
As I mentioned before, some of the greatest moments I have–now that I’m able to speak in more places than just Michigan–are meeting people in person after we’ve connected through social media. A follower attended my talk, and I can’t even begin to explain how emotional it was to meet her afterward, and hug, and have us cry together. There wasn’t much said, but that exchange of emotion was enough. I’m thankful that she is so brave and strong to pursue recovery.
By the end of the night, the athletic director helped bring the books back to my rental car. “Are you traveling ALONE?” he asked when we placed everything in the trunk. I let his words sink in. I was traveling alone. The anxiety and stress of doing so was a lot to handle. But I answered confidently and proudly that yes, I was traveling on my own, and surviving! This trip has not been easy so far, but it’s been a wonderful experience for me. So I can’t say it enough—do one thing each day that scares you. I’ve been doing multiple things each day that scare me (especially as an anxiety-ridden perfectionist), but it’s been so rewarding, and so worth it.
One last shout-out and thank-you to Emily for bringing me in to come speak at her college. From emails, to an idea to have me come speak, Emily set this thing on FIRE—and here we were with a big event for Saint Michael’s College (which just goes to show we can make this happen ANYWHERE around the country!)! I am so amazed and thrilled with everything the school and the athletic administration are doing to make mental health a priority in the community. And if Emily hadn’t used her voice, none of this would have happened. Such an amazing trip, GREAT people, and a wonderful community making an amazing impact.
Order your copy of Running in Silence: My Drive for Perfection and the Eating Disorder That Fed It here.