Saturday, September 24, 2016

Running and Post Viral Fatigue Syndrome

Celebrating my recovery with a beach sprint!
I really wanted to title this post "Recovered!!!" but I'm hoping that this title will be more searchable for runners struggling with mono and/or post-viral fatigue syndrome. My "Running After Mono" posts from 2012 still receive quite a few hits and many readers have commented that the posts have been helpful for them.

Onto the important stuff: I'm 100% recovered from mono/post-viral illness! It's so wonderful to have my normal life back. I never took my health for granted, but I'm even more appreciative of being able to do everyday things than I was before.

I came down with this illness on June 30 and spent most of the last three months unable to do much of anything other than lay on a couch. I had good days and bad days, but if I did too much activity on the good days, I would pay for it. I had to bail out of all of the races I had registered for, including two summer 5Ks, the Army 10-miler, and the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon in November. There's not enough time to train! Here's a rough timeline of how the illness went:

June 30: Initial illness with sore throat and extreme fatigue (no fever or nausea)

July: Extremely tired and weak, with occasional dizziness. I had a few good days sprinkled in, which enabled me to go into work and do the book signings that I had arranged prior to getting sick.

First three weeks of August: Showed signs of improvement, but whenever I felt like I was getting
better, I would try to run, and then I'd feel like crap for the next few days. I quit my job in the middle of the month, so that gave me the ability to focus 100% of my mental energy on recovery.

August 24 - September 2: THE WORST! I attempted a short run on August 23rd, and that was clearly a mistake. I spent these two weeks barely leaving the house. I colored in adult coloring books, watched Netflix, and read. I was dizzy, tired, and had zero energy. I took frequent naps and slept 8+ hours each night.
This run on 8/23 was a mistake.

September 3: After 10 days of feeling like a zombie, I finally woke up feeling like a human.

September 4-9: Daily improvements. I started tracking my sleep and my steps using a FitBit. I still was primarily inactive, as the doctor had told me that once I started to feel better, I should still take it easy. Here are my daily step totals, which show how extremely sedentary I was. The only movement I did was walking around the house!

  • Sept. 4: 1,340
  • Sept. 5: 1,394
  • Sept. 6: 1,567
  • Sept. 7: 1,219
  • Sept. 8: 3,095 (I went shopping)
  • Sept. 9: 1,874

September 10: I realized that I felt 100% normal for the entire day! I had been worried that my shopping trip on the 8th would set me back, but it didn't. Finally I had my health back and feeling like a "normal" person was such a welcome change.

September 11-19: I felt 100% recovered every day, but I knew I still needed to take it easy. There were times when I felt a little tired, but they were infrequent, and even before I got sick I was often tired. I started a new job on September 12, and part of me was scared that I wouldn't be able to handle working full time. But the job energized me and I was able to focus really well. Starting a new job naturally gave me more steps, but I also started taking some slow walks. 
  • Sept. 13: 1 mile walk (5,984 steps for the day)
  • Sept. 15: 1.4 mile walk  (7,444 steps for the day)
  • Sept. 16: 1.4 mile walk (6,519 steps for the day)
  • Sept. 19: Walk on the beach (didn't measure it, but 6,363 steps for the day)
Beach walk!
As for the new job, I am the Vice President of Demand Generation (marketing) for a tech company. It's an amazing opportunity working with a talented team and I'm really excited to dive in. The commute is a little bit longer, but I am sure I will adjust.

September 20-now: With 10 days of complete health behind me, I decided it was time to very gradually ease my way back into running. Greg and I were at the beach and it was in the upper 70's and humid every day. So my only run at the beach was more of a walk with 2-minute jog breaks! Greg and I drove home from the beach the next day (Wednesday), allowing me the opportunity to rest before going for another jog/walk.
  • Sept: 20: 4 times (3 minute walk, 2 minute jog)
  • Sept. 21: Rest
  • Sept. 22: 4 times (4 minute jog, 1 minute walk)
  • Sept. 23: 5 times (4 minute jog, 1 minute walk)
  • Sept. 24: Rest
Yes, it was my second week on the job and I took a vacation! Greg and I had planned the trip months ago, and it was nice to digest all the information I had learned in the first week.

I am confident that I am completely out of the woods now. On top of running yesterday, I attended my 20-year high school reunion in the evening, which involved a lot of walking (we took a tour of the school) and being outside in the heat to watch a football game. I didn't sleep all that well last night, but I still woke up feeling really good!

All in all, the illness lasted 11 full weeks, and then another week before I started to ease myself back into running. This is a 12-week training hiatus, which is the longest I've ever had since I started running. Even when I had mono in 2012, I didn't take this much time off from running because I had periods of feeling really good and was able to run. I even ran a 13-miler in 80+ degrees during my last bout with mono! That was before I realized it was mono, though.

Running feels great! 
The 2012 illness was more polarized. I either felt completely normal/healthy, or extremely ill. There were some days when I felt in-between, but typically it was one extreme or the other. This recent illness was more of a constant dragging fatigue. At no point could I have run 13 miles, and when I tried to run even one mile, my body revolted.

How does it feel to run again? Great! I can tell that I am out of shape, but the good news is that the motion of running still feels really natural to me. I don't care what my pace is, and none of my runs this week have felt strained or even challenging. I didn't feel like I was pushing myself at any time, which is good! 

I'm going to work with my coach to try and get back into shape. I know that it's going to be difficult at first because I won't be able to hit the same paces that I used to hit. But I'm really looking forward to the fact that I will see progress on a weekly basis! When you're super fit, the gains you make are small. But when you're coming back, there's way more room for improvement, so I'm just going to enjoy that aspect of it. 

In terms of races, I still want to be ranked by RunWashington for the 30-39 year old age group for 2016. To do this, I need to run at least 3 of their "ranked" races by the end of the year (You need 6 total and I have already run 3). The good news is that of the 6 races that you are required to run, only your best 3 times are used to determine your ranking. So as long as I cross 3 finish lines by the end of the year, I qualify to be included in the rankings. Slow times for these races won't affect my current ranking. Of course, I had been hoping to get faster and improve prior to getting sick, but now I will settle for just being able to use the times I have already logged. I'll definitely run the Turkey Trot that I do every year, and probably a Christmas-themed 5K in December.

Speaking of RunWashington, they wrote about my book Boston Bound in their fall issue. Here is the link to the article, which talks about three local authors who write about running.

In other book news, Bustle published an article that I wrote about how sports psychology helped me qualify for the Boston Marathon. I'm not a huge fan of all the animated gifs they added, but it's still nice to see my work in a high-profile publication.

My next few weeks will be focused on diving into my new job and gradually rebuilding my fitness.


  1. Welcome back! Glad to see you running again! And congrats on getting published in Bustle (and the new job!).

  2. Looking forward to seeing you at some races later this fall!

  3. So glad you're able to run again! I bet you will see some improvements by November and December too, just from training again. It might not be the times you expected to see if you could have trained through the summer, but I bet you will look back at these recent times then, and be surprised. Glad to read about your running and that you are recovering. It is not always about finish lines, times, speed, and mileage... it is about going out to run and race and be with others!

  4. Glad your are on the road to recovery (pun completely intended). I hope you are back to 100% soon.

  5. Yay so glad to hear you're feeling better! And running! Yay! :-D And well done on the new job as well and the book articles. Very very cool.

  6. Woohoo! So much good news re: feeling good, returning to running and the new job! Congrats on the articles too!

  7. Such a happy post and such an exciting time for you with the book, new job, and getting back to training. You'll be back in no time :)

  8. So glad that you are getting back to it! It has been a long road to recovery and you've been doing so well being patient.

  9. Woo hoo! It's great to hear that you are feeling good and ready to run again. I know that you will come back and be stronger than ever. You've got that grit and determination. Congrats on the new job! Sounds like an amazing opportunity!