Journey Back to Good: Part 1

I’ve posted several times about how this past season for me personally felt a little bit lame.  It wasn’t a bad year. It wasn’t a great year. I only raced two times and getting to the finish line at Ironman Wisconsin was an act of sheer stubbornness more than anything else.  It was probably not the smartest idea because I knew in my heart something was wrong with me.  Over the next few blog posts I am going to share some really personal (and sometimes gross) information about myself. Why? Well, I figure that if someone else out there has symptoms like me and doesn’t keep pushing to get a good enough answer/diagnosis, it could lead to further health complications. I am not a doctor, nutritionist, or nurse.  I am a human who pushes her body through a pretty extreme sport, a business owner, a step-mom and wife – with all of that comes added stress ON TOP of the physical stuff! I am sharing MY experience and the treatments that are somewhat ‘out there’ in relationship to things your general practitioner might suggest. Here it goes…

How It All Started

I got into endurance racing a long time ago. I believe my first marathon was in 2005. Let’s use that as a good solid starting year – so 10 years I’ve been doing some form of endurance training.  After 10 Ironman finishes – I think its safe to say that I have put my body through the ringer.  Over these last ten years though a few things have changed: 1) I was put on birth control for a short stint where I ended up having a terrible hormonal reaction and ended up spiraling into a really bad major depressive episode 2) I started taking antidepressants again due to the issue just mentioned 3) I did 3 Ironman races in 1 summer 4) my diet steadily went from one that was pretty balanced to one that included a lot more sugars due to the load of training I did (so I thought it was appropriate)* <-we will come back to this.

As these things happened and as the stress added up, I just started to feel more and more tired.  I was suffering from PMS, depressive symptoms, anxiety, weight gain, and I just kept feeling unlike myself.  Over the years my psychiatrist and I kept upping the dosage until I nearly maxed out on it.  I am all for medicine when it works but I just felt like I was barely staying afloat to get through my regular life.  If I didn’t nap I would be a nightmare to be around. It was not uncommon for me to sleep for 2-4 hours during the day just so I had enough energy to do my work, workouts, and (kind of) be around to hang with Nate and the kids.  You will come to see how big of a saint my husband really is through this too. So this is what a day in my life looked like if we did not have the kids:

  • Wake Up between 9:45-10:15 AM
  • Eat Breakfast
  • Go back to bed -OR- if I had a 2 a day I would probably stay up do some work and then go ride/run/swim whatever
  • Work a bit
  • Workout
  • Eat and then nap again if I had time
  • Eat dinner
  • Go to bed

Yeah. Lots of sleeping AND STILL feeling tired. Now – everyone out there is saying “Um, DUH, you were overtrained!!!” Well, I don’t disagree with you however I had taken significant time off between seasons and reduced training volume/intensity substantially.  When the root cause finally becomes clear (and it does) it’s really very easy to see that I was under-nourished both macro and micronutrient wise AND under-recovered.  That absolutely lends itself to overtraining – it really is just an imbalance of stress and the bodies ability to manage the stress.

Feeling Like Crap But It’s All Good?

I had visited with my regular doctor several times over the 5 years where I just kept feeling worse and worse. I got the same answers. “Blood work looks good. Ferritin is a bit low. Take some iron”.  Seriously? Take some iron? Okay then. I took iron. I still felt like a sack of dog poop. Still tired. Still lacking in my training. Still needing like 20 hours of sleep. “You’re overtrained”.  Okay then. I took time off and reduced training load/volume/intensity.  Still…dog poop sack.

In relationship to my racing and training things went from bad to worse.  I had a stellar season with my new coach in 2014.  We were excited for the progress I had made and we were looking at a great year in 2015. My testing and training was looking great despite my fatigue.  We thought it might be low carbohydrates so we upped the amount of carb I took in.  We thought it might be iron so we upped the iron.  We tried just about everything we could think of. By the time Ironman CDA rolled around, I made it about 18 miles on the bike and called it a day. I just wanted to crawl in bed and sleep. I’m sorry but if you’ve ever tapered for and Ironman you are JUMPING off the walls with energy. That just was not me. And it worried me.

The rest of the summer was similar.  Training days were lost because I couldn’t get out of bed. It wasn’t motivation, it was simply I was too tired to do anything else. If I did get out of bed, it was to slug through a run or a ride. I would hit my intensities and efforts but the whole time all I wanted to do was SLEEP.  There was no fire burning in my gut. No passion. I just was so empty.

Side note: I love triathlon – it gives me so much joy to think about the times I’ve raced and how much fun I have being out with friends and strangers going after a goal bigger than myself.  This ‘slump’ was not motivation driven. This was a physical and at time emotional straight up illness. I can’t describe it any way other than that. It just sucked big time. Pardon my French, but eventually I am going to talk about my poop, and so if I can say poop, I can say sucks big time. Back to the story…

The final straw for me came at Steelhead.  I was the strongest I have ever been in all three disciplines. I should have gone out and crushed this race, sub 5:00 easily. Well, I got off of my bike and by about 2 miles in I sat down on the side of the road (ironically in front of the Red Bull Truck, I know right?) and started bawling. I couldn’t do it. I could not keep going. I had nothing left. I just sat there thinking about how all of my hard work over the past few years was for nothing. HOW. HOW COULD I FEEL THIS WAY? I am a coach! I am supposed to understand the body! I am supposed to be this super strong woman who never quits! What is going on!?

Later in the summer I finished Ironman Wisconsin. I had some amazing reasons to finish that race and while it was not a bad showing it still wasn’t a great showing.  About a month after Wisconsin I had a break down. I thought Nate would have to take me to the emergency room because I was having a nervous breakdown. I was unable to be consoled. I was crying for hours. I curled up in bed completely frozen. I couldn’t verbalize what was going on in my body or my head. I really just felt crazy.

It was at this point that I finally listened to a good friend of mine, Lyndsey, who recommended I go see her holistic/integrative doctor, Dr. Anup Kanodia.  I knew exactly what seeing him would mean…it would mean a new diet, a lot of testing, and a new lifestyle.  I knew if I called him I would never be the same and I would hear things I didn’t want to hear. I would do things I didn’t want to do.

Lying in bed, frozen from whatever psychological issue I was dealing with, I decided that I am too young, have too many goals, and have too many people in my life who need me to be strong, happy, and fun, NOT to do these drastic things. So…I gave him a call…

In the next blog I will address my first meeting with Dr. Kanodia and our first steps in treatment so stay tuned!