Sunday, July 31, 2016

Hitting Reset: My Month Without Running

I have not run for the entire month of July. I got sick on June 30 and was diagnosed with mono about two weeks later. This is not my first experience with mono as an adult, I also had mono 4 summers ago, and it lasted for three full months. My theory on why I got it this time is that my immune system was weakened due to stress and lack of sleep, so the opportunistic virus reared its ugly head again.

I'm writing this section primarily for my own benefit. In case I ever get mono again, I can look back and compare my experience. My blog posts from 2012 were extremely useful this time around. 

The first 7 days were like a traditional illness. Sore throat, exhaustion, and pressure behind the ears. The level of exhaustion, however, was very similar of that to my 2012 mono. Once I had enough energy to walk around and function semi-normally, I was extremely weak. I could not walk at my normal pace and I felt extremely limp. For the past three weeks, it's been a teeter-totter of ups and downs. At my best, I'm able to drive and go to work, although walking around is a challenge. At my worst, I want to stay in bed because any kind of movement feels like a strain on my body. My throat sometimes still hurts in the middle of the night, often waking me up and keeping me up.

I have not had any nausea, digestive issues, fever, or nasal congestion. I have noticed a decreased appetite, but that could be because I'm used to eating an amount of food that would fuel 40-60 miles of running per week. That said, I've lost about 3 pounds and am officially "underweight." I do, suspect, however, that part of this weight loss could be due to eating a diet primarily of fruits and vegetables. 
Smoothie with strawberries, blueberries, yogurt, almond milk

Greg and I recently bought a new blender and I've been "drinking" a ton of fruits and vegetables every day, but also making sure I'm eating protein from things like eggs, yogurt, nuts, and fish. I've also drastically reduced the amount of sweets I've been eating. I know that sugar robs the body of its nutrients, so instead of eating sweets 2-3 times a day, I'm only having ice cream after dinner a few times per week. With all the fruit I've been having, though, I don't crave sweets very often.

Last week I worked from home every day except for Wednesday. I think not having to go into the office helped because I felt pretty good yesterday and so far this morning. I will attempt to go into work tomorrow. My lingering symptoms are weakness and dizziness. Although I was feeling some extreme fatigue on Friday.

I actually think I coped with mono relatively well in 2012, and I'm coping even better this time around. About halfway through the month I simply made the decision that I wasn't going to run the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon (hopefully the half) and it took a lot of the "pressure" to recover off. I decided I would just take my time, not worry about my fall race season, and focus on getting better. I would like to run the Rehoboth Beach Marathon on December 4th, but I've also accepted the possibility that I might not be able to run a marathon until the spring, depending on how long recovery takes.

I also had to pretty quickly accept that I will have to rebuild fitness and it will take time. My original goal for Indy was 3:20, and now I'm not even sure if that will happen in the Spring. I'm not saying it can't, I'm simply saying that I don't know when it will happen, and I'm okay with it. Part of me actually enjoys the excitement that comes from rebuilding after an injury-- making a "comeback." I hit the reset button and everything is a PR again. If I do a 4-mile run, it will be a huge accomplishment instead of something I take for granted. Every run will be a celebration of health instead of something that's part of the daily routine. And I'll know that every time I run, I will be closer and closer to returning to my previous level of fitness. 

It is a bit like coping with loss. I was fortunate enough to train for 3 straight years without major illness or injury. The only breaks I took were scheduled ones post-marathon. As a result, I attained a level of fitness I never thought possible. Initially the idea of "that's over now" was really upsetting, but once I accepted it, as well as the idea that it could take 6+ months to get back to where I was, I felt some emotional relief. I think it all comes down to the pressure I put on myself to be a fast runner. If the pressure isn't there, then I feel more free. I already have enough job stress to cope with while I'm sick, so I don't need to add any more stress to that load.

So I'm really in no rush to get better. Of course, I want to get better ASAP, but I don't have any deadlines I'm trying to meet and I've accepted that I may not be able to train again for another 4-6 weeks. In fact, my coach isn't giving me any training schedules until I'm fully recovered. As a result, I'm not feeling tortured. There are days when I really, really, REALLY want to go out and run. To put the shoes on my feet. To wear my favorite running clothes. To sweat. To "Instagram" a run. But it's more out of frustration than feeling like I have to maintain my fitness. 

Life on Hold
What's harder to cope with than not running is that I haven't been able to live my life for the past month. I've had to cancel and bail out on many things. Dinners with friends. Work events. Races. A baby shower. My niece's birthday. A "Solidcore" class with two of my friends. And I felt horrible for doing this, but I was supposed to represent Generation UCAN at an event, but I bailed out at the last minute because I felt so crappy. Plus, who wants to take UCAN samples from someone with mono? My health needs to come first. I hate backing out on commitments, but if I don't, I'm not going to get the rest I need to recover.

I sometimes feel depressed when I look at photos of myself from June-- both running photos and everyday photos. I miss my life. I feel like I'm not really living my life and I want it back. And there are times when I feel like I'm never going to be well again. Like I can't even imagine what "normal" feels like. Weakness and exhaustion are my new normal.

Greg runs the =PRR= Birthday Bash 5K
Greg ran a 5K last weekend-- one that I was registered for as well. I came out to cheer him on but it was so hot out that I struggled to walk around the start/finish line area. I started to feel particularly sad when I looked at the women's race results and realized that my original goal time would have won me first place in my age group (including a big trophy) but I quickly stopped that line of thinking because it was heading nowhere productive. The absolute WORST thing I can do right now (at least mentally) is compare myself to other runners and/or go down the "could have, would have, should have" path. We were supposed to go out to brunch with our friends who also ran the race afterward, but being out in the heat "zapped" me too much, so I had to bail out on that.

Thankfully, I felt pretty good the day of my first book signing, and I have another book signing this afternoon at a local running store, and I think I will be fine for that. I'm only there for two hours, and I get to sit, so it's pretty low stress. 

This definitely has been the crappiest month that I've had in years, but it's pretty much over now and I hope to have more of a life in August. Greg's sister and her kids are coming to visit and it's our wedding anniversary. I need to start showing my face at work more often.

I return to the doctor on Friday to check in. Several people have suggested to me that this is more than mono because it's lasted so long. But since I went through this exact same thing 4 years ago, I don't think it's anything other than mono. It is hard to believe that an illness can linger for so long, but it can, it has, and it is. All the other blood work was normal, and before June 30, I was feeling really good, nailing every single workout. 

Because this illness is such an up-and-down type thing, I don't get too excited about 1-2 days of feeling more energized or slightly more functional. I know that things can easily take a turn for the worse at any time. One symptom that has been a constant no matter how energized I feel is weakness when I walk. Ironically, I can feel energized and weak at the same time.  And also ironically, on my "good days" I can do pretty much anything except run-- the one thing I want to do the most. Anyway, I just need to continue eating healthy foods, getting plenty of rest, and trying my best to not stress out about work.

It felt great to get dressed for work and "look" normal!


  1. As someone who had to deal with coming out the other side of a severe Crohn's flare I can sympathize. It is hard to watch yourself lose fitness and it be out of your control. Just get the rest you need and don't dive back in until your body is ready!

  2. Thanks for the update. You were in great shape when you got sick, and while it's hard, you are doing what is right for your body by resting completely and not rushing things. Hopefully you can run a half this Fall, even if it's not "racing" it.

    Mentally, I "reset" my PRs every year. I have lifetime PRs but I hate for the fitness I've gained in the past few years to override the joy I felt the first time I broke 30 minutes in a 5K. I don't think I could run that now if I tried but it was huge for me at the time.

    Best wishes with recovery!

    1. That's a cool way to think about it. My sports says only to compare to the "recent" past, but in this case, I can also compare myself to post-mono Elizabeth 2012! I think it will encourage me.

    2. It will. You can only be your best for that day, that course, those conditions, and how you feel. Times aside, you know if you're giving 100% and knowing you, you will give 100% for the goal in the race whether you are shooting for a PR or just shooting for a comeback/successful finish.

  3. I'm glad you are on the mend, even though it is slow. It's hard not to run. What's also hard (and what I'm going through right now) is struggling to even finish a five mile run. What the heck is happening? I'm hoping that once fall comes, I'll get my running mojo back. I've got a half marathon in Florida in December, which normally I wouldn't even have to train for. But this year, I'll actually need to build up my mileage again. Ugh.

    1. I thought of you, Wendy, when I just wanted to say "f**k it all" and go run despite the fact that I feel weak. I think I probably would have only lasted 10 minutes before feeling dizzy or having to stop! But I didn't do it. December is quite a ways away. I think you will be able to get that mileage up no problem!

  4. I think we all go through these periods with running and everything. I'm sorry to hear the month wasn't great but I know you'll be able to come back stronger. Canceling and bailing on friends is hard but at the end of the day, you have to focus on your health first. Thinking of you, my friend.

  5. You will definitely get it back - your speed, your health and life! It sucks you've had to bail out on things with your friends but like Hollie says above, your health is the most important thing.
    I have to say, I quite enjoy the "comeback" time as well. When every run feels like a blessing and you get faster and faster. Sending healing vibes your way!

  6. You have such a positive outlook and it seems like you are doing the right things to take care of you. You don't need to feel bad for cancelling plans, etc. to take care of yourself. I know that it must be hard not to run when you are so used to running every day, but I love what you said about coming back and not taking running for granted. You WILL get back to running and it will be there for you. Don't rush it. Take care of yourself!

  7. Ugh... sorry that you're having to deal with this but I'm glad you're taking the time to fully recover. I hope you're back to 100% soon!