I had high hopes for 2018. I was feeling fit and I had big goals.
I hadn’t had any majour setbacks in several years (not since my stress fracture in 2010) and my success led to complacency. In the spring I got a bit of a sinus infection which I never bothered to treat, and I also spontaneously decided to stop taking my glucocorticosteroid asthma medication. The medication, which I had been using for years with success, just didn’t seem to be helping that much anymore. In hindsight, I don’t think it was the medication that was the problem, rather it was the sinus infection. More on this later…
I trained for the run across Alberta throughout the spring, but my recovery seemed to suck. I took more rest days in this training block than I ever have, but my body still felt beat up. Everything seemed to feel swollen and there was no spring in my step. It was tempting to blame it on overtraining, however I really wasn’t training that much compared to my normal activity levels.
I tapered hard going into the Alberta run and my body felt a lot better. By the time I joined Dave in Lake Louise I was feeling pretty good. That day I lasted about 57km before overheating, and then calling it quits at 70km when I discovered blood in my stool. After getting the okay from the doctor, I decided to run the next day and pushed hard to catch up to Dave. I eventually reached him in Chestermere after an eventful run through the night, but the push to catch Dave left me exhausted and I decided to abandon the run only 10km later. (I wrote a few thoughts about my run attempt here.)
After sleeping for a few days I began to feel recovered, and I got out for a few hikes before leaving for a Colorado roadtrip. I continued to hike and run in Colorado, but I still seemed to have a base level of swelling. My achilles felt like marshmallows and when I tried to get into a deep squat my muscles and joints felt like they were filled with fluid. Still I pushed on, strongly believing that the body is meant to move. I didn’t get better, but I didn’t get worse.
In August I ran the Ute 100 in Utah. I didn’t feel great, but I had a good gap on the rest of the ladies’ field until I succumbed to the extreme heat. I spent 90 minutes wallowing at an aid station before I felt well enough to continue. Reaching that finish look every ounce of perseverance I had, and I am quite proud to have earned a finisher’s belt buckle. Some day I would like to return to the Ute and run a respectable time.
My next adventure after returning from Utah was Meet the Minotaur, an off-trail race in Crowsnest Pass. The air was very smoky from the forest fires so I was pro-active, taking my Ventilin, sucking on Halls, and covering my face with a buff in an effort to protect my lungs. Despite my efforts I wasn’t able to push as hard as I would have liked. I quickly ran out of breath and 15 minutes into the race I had to let the lead ladies go. Meet the Minotaur 2018 turned into a social race for me, but I really enjoyed the change of pace.
For the rest of August and September I either rested or hiked. The air outside was extremely smoky so it wasn’t difficult to take a break from running. When the air cleared enough to run again I still felt off. I used to really enjoy running downhill, but the swelling in my legs took all enjoyment out of it. My muscles did not seem to respond and throughout 2018 I was forced to just trot along instead of using a strong stride.
I tapered hard going into Whistler Alpine Meadows 110km, hoping that my body might respond, but at this point I think my body had had enough. Throughout 2018, ever since that sinus infection, I had felt off. My body had been whispering to me, but now it was shouting STOP! I vomited only 20km into the race, continued until the 55km mark and called it quits. Everything felt wrong and I worried that I was causing permanent damage to myself.
Following WAM I took 2 weeks completely off running, followed by an additional 2 weeks of nothing longer than 4hrs and no more than 50km/wk. I went to my doctor and described my symptoms. She took my concerns seriously and set me up with blood tests, a breathing test, an EKG and a chest X-ray. The tests were just in case something else was going on, but she seemed fairly certain that my complaints were caused by my decision to come off of the glucocorticosteroids. I was skeptical that my symptoms could be related to asthma, but my doctor is usually right so I listened to her and went back on my drugs.
The relief was almost instant. A week after restarting the glucocorticosteroids my symptoms were gone. I feel like such an idiot for coming off the drugs without consulting my doctor, but I’m so thankful to be feeling like myself again. There is no squishy feeling in my achilles and I can run downhill with a fluid stride. When I try to accelerate or bound side to side, my muscles respond. It’s hard for me to know how much of the recovery is due to finally taking some prolonged rest, or getting back on my medication, but I’m certain both actions play a part.
I haven’t followed a training plan in a long time, but I’ve decided to go back to some structured training in an effort to avoid a repeat of the last 6 months of frustration. So far the plan is going well and everything seems to be clicking. My fitness is coming back and I’m moving through the mountains totally pain free. A quick glance at Strava tells me that I haven’t caught up to my 2017 fitness level yet, but I am finally trending upwards. Hopefully I have learned my lesson from 2018, and I’m going into 2019 healthier and smarter.
Up next: Some goals and plans for 2019 🙂