The 14 mile run that wasn’t

As I mentioned before, I am doing another race challenge at the end of this month – an 8K on Saturday, and a half marathon on Sunday. So, I *should* be some hardcore half training right now. Yeaaaah… ’bout that.

Thanks to whatever exactly I did that jacked my foot up last week, I am having a hard time running more than a mile or two without a lot of pain. I managed a 10 mile run and a 9 mile run last week, but I set out to do 14 today. I was mentally ready, my body was rested, I was all about this long run to deal with some frustration I’ve been having lately between work and my personal life.

It started out okay, the typical stiff legs that I am used to for the first mile or two. The heat wasn’t too bad yet. But by mile 3, I was moving at a snail’s pace and walking more than I was running. My foot hurt so badly. For as stubborn as I can be, I realized that this run was not going to make or break my next races unless I let myself get more injured than I already was. So I slowed to a walk and headed home. After a quick walk (yes, yes, I know) with this little one:
IMG_4157
I took some ibuprofen, showered, wrapped my foot, and settled down to eat some lunch.

*sigh*

I wouldn’t be so frustrated if the last week of bad runs due to my foot was an isolated incident. But my sore foot wasn’t the only reason I decided to call it quits today. I was exhausted. My energy level plummeted ten minutes into my “run.” This has been ongoing, and, while I’m pretty sure I know what’s causing it, I’m not sure how I want to handle it.

Since September, when I was really starting to hit the high mileage and intense training for my first marathon, my energy has been steadily dropping. I started missing runs from being too tired to get up with my alarm clock (I work second shift, so I only set an alarm to make sure I have enough time to complete a run before I need to go to work). I was tired all day, even when I would get 8, 9, 10, even 12 hours of sleep a night. Extra caffeine made me jittery. I chalked it up to just needing to sleep more to recover from the increased running and tried to get into bed as soon as I could after I got home from work. I struggled through the next two months and finally seemed to get a second wind.

In November, I changed jobs, and went from work an evening shift 4 days a week to a Monday through Friday, 9-5 type of job (only my new boss was a workaholic and made me work 7-6 5 days a week). I also had about 24 hours to go through this dramatic schedule change. However, after over 7 years as a nightshift medic, I was confident there was no schedule change I couldn’t handle with enough caffeine, and plugged on and completed the Richmond Marathon in mid-Novemeber. I was sore, so unbelievably sore, and even managed to twist my ankle around mile 16, but I bounced back and was back running 6 miles a day by the end of the week after the race. My foot (the right one) would randomly throb, but I ignored it and kept running.

Fast forward to December. I had been at my new job for a month. Without telling you who I worked for or what I did, all I can say is that I was in a lot of industrial settings and outside in all kinds of weather. Not good for your lungs, to say the least. Before all the snow hit, we would get pelted with heavy rains and just above freezing temps. One day at work, in the hour that I was at a particular site, I went from feeling fine to having a ridiculous sore throat, headache, and fever. I got through the rest of the day and felt a little better in the morning since my fever broke. I went to work, left early with my boss’s permission, and headed out to Virginia Beach for the Surfin Santa Ten Miler, my first race since the marathon. I still felt crummy, but I wanted to run this race. The next morning, it was cold and raining… great conditions for a ten miler less than 24 hours post-illness. I actually was pretty happy with my time, but by the time I returned home that night, I had a fever with a fabulous cough. This went on for over a week, fevers that would break with various upper respiratory symptoms. Probably the flu in retrospect – that’s what working in healthcare will do to you. Finally, I caved and got a prescription to treat the massive sinus infection that had now developed. I barely ran in December from all the sickness and exhaustion.

I felt better by Christmas, and sadly got a whopping 24 hours off from my new job to be with my family several hours away. Then it was back to work. I was exhausted every day, wanting to be in bed by 8pm and having no desire to get up with my 5am alarm clock. At this point, this tiredness was probably depression-related, as I had hoped this job change would be a good thing, but I had been lied to about every aspect (from hours to salary to working conditions) and I wanted to get out, back to my old job despite all the reasons I left it originally (low salary, crummy hours, boredom, etc). I trudged into the new year, but I finally got some good news – my old job was able to rearrange the schedule and take me back at the beginning of February (we function on minimal staffing there, so it isn’t as easy as you might think to rehire a former employee (although I stayed there part time when I left)). I perked up a little, stopped caring about following the rules this new job, got some more sleep, and did my best to get my runs in in-between all the snowstorms we were starting to get. Shamrock was in March – I couldn’t slack off anymore.

February – I struggled to readjust to the work/running schedule I had previous followed, as the weather would not cooperate. I was losing my endurance, and couldn’t run for hours like I used to during the summer. I was just tired. Even walking up stairs would wear me out. March – I struggled through Shamrock in 25-30 mph winds and 40 degree temps, just hoping to finish. Cold weather and more upper respiratory fun, followed by 2 bouts of the GI bug. Thank you, germy little kids that I take care of every day. I tried to get in miles on days I actually felt decent and there wasn’t snow and ice all over the roads, but those days were rare. April – I was hit by overwhelming exhaustion once again. 10 or 12 hours of sleep just didn’t seem like enough. Finally, mid-April, the sun started shining again, it had warmed up… and the pollen was here to play. If you live just about anywhere else in the country and suffer from seasonal allergies, don’t come to Richmond. You might die. Seriously – it’s not unusual to walk through clouds of pollen. I took my Zyrtec faithfully and managed to get a few good weeks of running in before we had the massive rains that I think were part of the storm systems that caused all those tornadoes a few weeks back. Which brings us around to the pitiful races from last weekend, my current foot situation, and today…

There could be several reasons that my running has suffered so much. The weather didn’t help, but multiple schedule changes made it harder to get motivated. Being sick and injured several times, I might have tried to jump back into high mileage too soon, forgetting how little running base I had anymore. It was a bad winter, I’ll make my peace with that. But the thing that concerns me the most is the sheer exhaustion that I’ve had for 8 or 9 months now. Some of it might be the sleep deprivation – between evening shifts for work and running squad at least one night a week, I don’t get to sleep like a normal person. It might be depression/anxiety over a LOT of personal/adult life things rearing its ugly head again. But these are issues I’ve dealt with for years and have never been so worn out before this past year.

While I would tell anyone else who has these symptoms to go to a doctor (do as I say, not as I do), I’m stubborn. There’s a chance it’s my thyroid, but I have a better idea. I have always had low iron levels and been anemic on some level. I supplement with some iron and usually I was fine. Well, then I became vegetarian, aka less iron intake. Then I started distance running, which is well known to lower iron levels in certain predisposed populations. Anyone else see where I’m going?

Again, I’m self-diagnosing here. DO NOT DO WHAT I AM DOING. These are conditions that can only be diagnosed properly and safely by a medical provider.

But there’s a really good chance that I am seriously anemic. Unfortunately, it can take months to rebuild iron stores. And I don’t like taking iron – it helps, but it can cause all sorts of fun side effects that I personally do not enjoy. I’m getting to the point where I probably have to start eating meat again. Not only is my iron likely low, but I often do not consume enough protein for my activity level (it has been tracked, it is something I am aware of). I know there are plenty of vegetarian and vegan athletes out there who do just fine, and I’m not saying not eating meat automatically makes you anemic. But with my personal health history and all my other factors, I am definitely more susceptible to rapidly depleting my iron stores and I do not want to get to the point of needing blood transfusions.

So I’m doing a trial run for the next month or two… I’m slowly adding meat back in. I know, I know, I know. It’s hard, mentally and physically (try not eating meat for several years and then suddenly eating it again… your body goes crazy!). But I have to do something. I am tired of being tired.

Anyone else ever return to eating meat after years of vegetarianism/veganism?

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