Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Sick of being Sick

“I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
Fannie Lou Hamer

I wish I could say everything was going according to plan. That after my awesome 15-mile run last Friday, I was able to resume my original training plan and find my pre-half-ironman strength. But, alas, it hasn't been as simple.

Sunday, we planned on doing an awesome Olympic distance triathlon in La Quinta( I was really looking forward to it. I was going to use it as a gentle workout, knowing I had run long on Friday and been under the weather previously.

We drove up to Palm Springs on Saturday and picked up our registration packet. Drove to the race site and walked around the gorgeous park. Such a beautiful venue. Clean, calm lake for the swim. Flat, pleasant bike ride around lots of resorts and gardens and golf clubs. Nice, easy run around the lake. Seemed like such a great place for a race.

Checked into our hotel. I stretched my sore muscles religiously and laid out all my race clothes. Woke up at 4:30 on Sunday. Didn't feel so hot. Pushed that thought aside and continued getting ready for the race. Ate breakfast, drove to the race site, laid out my transition area, got body-marked. Ignored the stabbing pain in my head that was ebbing into nausea. Downed some Sudafed and Tylenol. A worried little voice in the back of my head protested. "It's not good if you have to race after taking all those drugs. Hard on your liver. Predispose you to hyponatremia (" I continued to push these thoughts aside. "I'll feel better once we start." Still I couldn't help but feel worried that my body felt tired and my head felt like it was in a cloud. I was dizzy, tired, congested, and had a terrible, pounding headache that was pushing on a migraine.

I got in the water and "warmed" up. Only I couldn't warm up, even though the water was a balmy 65 and I had my wetsuit on. I had been fine in 60 degree water in Oceanside a few weeks ago. Still, I thought I'd feel better once the gun went off. Waited at the back of my wave. The gun went off. I was in a daze. It didn't feel like a race to me. I kept trying to picture how it would feel to bike and run but I couldn't wrap my head around it. I started swimming. The stabbing pain in my head got worse. Tried a few more strokes. Nothing. Dismally, I stopped, turned around, and headed to shore.

I dejectedly handed in my chip, peeled off my wetsuit, gathered my things and headed towards the car. I have never quit like this before. I've been depressed all week. I know I quit for the right reasons. I know I was/am sick and racing would have made me much worse. Still. I really wanted to do it. My body just wasn't up for it.

Jason drove us home. I slept the entire 2 hours in the car with my mouth hanging agape and my head flopped back and to the side. Dragged myself to bed without even showering once we got home and slept another 3 hours. Woke up to shower and eat and then went back to bed for another 10 hours.

Tuesday, I went back to the doctor for a second time. By now, I've been sick for 6 weeks, including 2 weeks before the half-ironman. I'm dizzy and exhausted and feel like I'm in a fog. I'm completely congested and can't even blow my nose. Allergy meds did nothing and neither did 10 days of antibiotics. He sent me over for a CAT scan. Pretty cool. Called me this morning and said I was severely blocked in all of my sinuses. (CAT scan image to right is not mine but example of another patient with blocked sinuses). I'm now going back on the antibiotics but for much longer--3 or 4 weeks. Ugh. I hate the side effects of the antibiotics. But I hate being sick more.

I know dropping out of the race was the right thing to do. Basically, I think I had a cold going into the half-ironman and the extreme conditions of the race pushed it into a sinus infection. Afterwards, deep fatigue from the half-ironman combined with marathon training has not allowed the sinus infection to be defeated. I thought a week of rest after the HIM would be sufficient. Apparently, it wasn't. After the first week, I took the 2nd week very conservatively, only running twice and doing weights once. Last week (the 3rd week), I tried a little more, running twice, weights once, swimming once, and biking twice. This is still very conservative compared with the volume I felt comfortable with during the HIM training. But it felt too much last week. Basically, I feel overtrained with minimal training right now, probably from the infection and deep fatigue from the HIM.

I'm having a much harder time bouncing back than I thought I would. Boy, I feel like a weakling! I can't believe how much it took out of me! Regardless of how I wish I felt, I have to listen to my body (new nickname: The Boss). I have to stop judging myself for how I feel and just accept my body for what it is and then take care of it. Okay.
A. I'm sick and need to get better.
B. I want to do the marathon in 6 weeks (my doctor said it would be okay if I trained conservatively--he's manning the med tent at mile 25; very cool! I love my doc!)
C. I can only withstand minimal trainig right now without making myself sicker.
D. I need lots of rest and good nutrition.

New Strategy:
Based on these needs, I've decided to only focus on running and weights until the marathon is over since I'm afraid my body can't handle much else. If I start feeling a lot better later on, I can always add back more. But for right now, I'm going to let my swimming and biking slip and hope it will come back quickly when I pick it up again after the marathon. Sigh. It's so hard to relinquish any fitness but I think it's what I have to do. So I'm going to try running 3x/week and doing weights 2x/week along with daily stretching. I'm going to start there and see what happens. 2 small runs (4-6 miles) and 1 long weekend run. When I start to feel better, I'll slowly add back the biking and swimming--swimming first since it's easier on the body. I would like to be able to handle 2x/week biking, swimming, weights and 3x/week running but this is overly-ambitious right now. On the plus side, running should help loosen up my sinuses. I hope the Boss will approve of my new plan.


bunnygirl said...

You poor thing! Take all your meds-- I once knew someone who let a thing like that go and ended up with a bone infection.

Get better soon!

Jessi said...

Sounds like you have a good plan. I like what you said about accepting where you are now, and moving on from there. Take care of yourself!

Kate said...

Your doc is great :-)

Sounds like a good plan- that's basically what I've been doing in those off weeks when I've been under the weather!

Andy said...

Sorry to hear about your race, but it was for the best in the end. I hope you get to feeling better sooner, so that you can get back to fully enjoying your "habit!"

Have fun the rest of the week,


SkiRough said...

I was going to say- this girl is actually posting up her CAT scan?! Now that is full disclosure!

Gee, that really sucks that you are so down and out. Here's hoping the antibiotics do the job this time and get you back in the pool and on the bike.

+++vibes for a speedy FULL recovery +++

JeffM said...

You've got a mean boss, but you have to listen. Hope the meds work and you get back to full training routine.

Cliff Tam said...


Smart move on bailing the race. I would do the same thing. There is no need to push through it and make it worst on your body.

Get lots of R & R :)...spend sometime iwth the bunny.

Chad in the Arizona Desert said...

The only way you should have felt ashamed of your race is if you had blown off all common sense and actually continued. You absolutely did the right thing. I was stupid and didn't listen to my body and spent the last two years rehabing my back before I could come back to the sport.

You definitely want to cut way back on the training and make sure you get back to 100% before things get any worse. It sounds like you are a lifer in this sport, so chalk it up to a short-term setback and ensure yourself a lifetime of triathlons.

Mon said...

ick! I hope you feel better, that is a long time to be sick and miserable!!!

Mike said...

Rachel- what a bummer! Glad you found the root cause of the blahs though. Definitely listen to your body and focus on the rest- it sounds like you are definitely going in the right direction by stripping out your schedule right now.
Hope you are feeling better soon!

Oh- don't stress about the race. I don't need to tell you what you already know but you definitely did the right thing. There will always be TONS of other races out there!

Jenn said...

I've been sick with the same sypmtoms for 3 months now! I haven't been able to do anything ... work or school. I am only 24 years old and I feel like it's ruining my life! I've been to a bunch of doctors and no one knows whats going on. I had an MRI, a balance test, a bunch of ear tests .... and they all showed nothing. I don't know what else to do! I need help!