Thursday, June 26, 2008

My Sick (Sick) Run

And just in case you’re wondering…by “sick” I’m NOT referencing the kind of “sick” that is synonymous with “WICKED”, “PHAT” or my personal favorite, “The Coronation of the Lamination”! In fact, if you’ve been paying attention, you’d notice that my LogMyRun log has been empty since the weekend, which meant that I’ve not logged a single mile in THREE days, which is unheard of in the middle of any marathon training program.

What is to follow involves a whole lot of medical jargon, so if you don’t feel like listening to me explain how I attempted to diagnose myself, I suggest you click away. For those who do stay however, I promise you’ll learn something about the pathophysiology of running sick that you might find useful, or at least entertaining…

The truth is, I started to feel sick the moment I landed in JFK. Even though I’m a pediatrician at heart, I blame it all on the 12-month-old rugrat who sat on his father lap in the seat next to me, and didn’t let me get one iota of sleep during the entire five hour flight from San Fran to New York. Moreover, she probably gave me some virulent strain of chlamydia or pertussis that’s been the bane of my existence for the past four nights. Even though she had no active symptoms, I know how infants and toddlers carry more infectious agents in their little pinky than I do in my entire body! At any rate, I became infected and within 12 hours of my arrival back in my apartment, I had the classic symptoms of a troublesome viral syndrome – runny nose, malaise, mild tachycardia and tachypnea.

I was good to myself though, and didn’t even try to run that day or the next, figuring I’d rest and give myself the necessary energy to fight off the infection. But instead of getting better, my symptoms got worse, until yesterday afternoon when I started to get side stitches on deep inspiration. I had planned for an easy 4 or 5 miler after work just to get back in the swing of things, but once I developed the side stitch first on one side than the other such that I couldn’t even take a full breath, I knew I had to throw my running plans right out the window as well. So instead I did all this medical research on the differential diagnosis of pleuritic chest pain and diagnosed myself either with a walking pneumonia (again from the chlamydia or pertussis) or a weird fungal lung infection (worse case scenario). I even tried to listen to myself with my stethoscope, but unfortunately my little pediatric version wouldn’t wrap around to the back. I made arrangements to call my best friend who’s also a medicine doctor first thing in the morning so he could listen to me and write me a script for a Z-pac.

Finally, on waking this morning, I had a breakthrough. I know it sounds weird, but I developed a new symptom which convinced me that I was getting better. I started coughing. This was good because usually in the time course of a common cold, by the time you develop a hacking dry cough, it usually means the tide has turned and you’re on your way to recovery. The pleuritic chest pain was also gone. Yay! Still, just to make sure, I called my medicine friend and left a message that I needed a STAT consult. Unfortunately, he returned my call a half hour later and told me that he was actually attending a conference in Chicago and won’t be back until the weekend. Bummer! I could’ve asked anybody else at the hospital to listen or write me a script…heck, I could’ve written a script myself…hmmm, okay, probably not so ethical…but since I thought I had turn the corner, I decided not to bother anyone, and proceeded to cough my way through my office hours. (Honestly, there’s nothing like seeing a whole panel of kids who are all healthy and well when you’re constantly sneezing with a fever and coughing up a lung!)

It was late by the time I got home and yet again, I had a decision to make. Should I stay home and get better quicker or risk impeding my recovery with a short run. On my running schedule, I saw I had already missed a long run and a speed workout this week, and thought that four days off running would officially qualify me as being on the DL. So I compromised and allowed myself to run with the premise that I’d take it easy and not even look at Rover (my Garmin) for the duration of the run.

It was almost already dark by the time I got to the park. This was good, because for one thing, the weather was comfortable and cool, and for another, I really didn’t want to bump into anyone I know who could see me run so slow. It’s a pride thing, I know, but I really wanted to allow my body (and not my mind) every chance to dictate the pace I was going to run.

Let me tell ya, running in Central Park again after a two week absence felt somewhat weird to me for the first half mile. While I was building my pace to a comfortable speed and letting my heart rate climb ever so slow, I was awed again by my surroundings. Turning the corner down Harlem Hill, I saw flickers of yellow light in the bushes next to me…fireflies! They definitely weren’t there the last time I ran here. Although they could be annoying at times, tonight I felt completely at peace with them and imagining that their little lights were actually celebratory fireworks for my coming home again! It’s weird how you can get so emotional by little things when you’re sick, but I literally cried some happy tears climbing up Harlem Hill, staring at the silhouette of tree branches against a beautiful full moon. I was so happy just to not be sick and running again that I felt inspired to run 12, 16, or who knows, maybe even 20 miles!

Feeling my heart pounding a bit fast and my breathing becoming shallow, I scaled my pace back on the downhill portions of the 6 mile loop. The funny thing was everytime I did that, my legs which were feeling quite good started to complain. My heart and lungs were hurting, but my legs were not. It was as if my lower body was complaining that the upper part was holding my running back. The feeling was completely foreign to me, because I’m usually running long miles on sore legs, so it’s usually the calves, hamstrings and quads that start hurting long before my cardiopulmonary system even notices a performance difference. As I focused in further on my running mechanics, I noticed that it was my breathing, and not the heart rate that was the limiting factor. I was taking about one breath for every beat and half today when ordinarily I could take about one breath for every two to two and a half beats. Not only so, but the breaths I were taking were again somewhat shallow and uneven. It was as if the rate of effective CO2-O2 exchange (more popularly known as VO2 effective) was ineffective and insufficient. I was somewhat intrigued by this notion so as I ran, so I tried to play around with my running mechanics by forcing myself to take deeper and slower breaths. I wasn’t really able to do this because as soon as I slowed my breathing, it would involuntarily speed up again, leading me to gasp for air. It also didn’t matter if I was running uphill or downhill or what my heart rate felt like to me, because my effective rate and lung volumes seemed somewhat set at a fixed rate. In pulmonogy terms, it resembled a obstructive lung pattern, similar to people who have exercised induced asthma. In layman’s terms, it’s like trying to breathe through a straw. Interpreting these results, I surmise that there are probably mucous plugs and other inflammatory garbage restricting the expansion of the tiny alveoli at the end of my bronchial tree. This was a very interesting science lesson for me, and it took me the rest of my six-mile run to calculate that my effective work of breathing was operating at around 65-70% of full efficiency. No wonder my heart and legs were so not enthused. That effort is so much less than my general aerobic effort which is somewhere in the range of 75-80%.

So you can imagine my surprise when I finished my six mile run, turned on the backlight for Rover, and found out that I averaged 7:00 min/miles for the full loop. What the heck? That is so much faster than what I imagined I was running. I really was thinking around 7:20-7:30, because it actually felt like I was running easy. I was so pumped about my time that I took an extra celebratory/cooldown loop around the reservoir (even though I remembered from the news that some guy just got mugged running this same trail at 2:00am early this morning, yikes!) Still, I took my time, finished the run, stretched, and celebrated with a Jumba Juice drink before heading home.

It was definitely a sick, sick run!

Thank you for getting through my long running diatribe about my sick run. If there are any medically related questions, feel free to shoot me a line! Hopefully, I did a decent job with the explanations.

13 comments:

N.D. said...

Hope you recover fully soon! Pretty darn good run for being sick, maybe the days of rest were invigorating.

Jamie said...

Awesome run even for not feeling well - nice job!

dabigleap said...

dude... you gotta warn me before you start talking about babies with virulent strains of Chlamydia! I think I squirted my coffee out my nose...

Irish Cream said...

Wow, Lam! Great run for being under the weather . . . I hope you get back to feeling 100% soon!! :)

Non-Runner Nancy said...

How on earth did you run that fast with lungs at reduced capacity. And what about that rule, okay to run if it's above the neck, but not below? I guess you proved it wrong.

Xenia said...

Heh, you sat next to little Typhoid Mary on the plane. I know I shouldn't think that's funny, but I can't help it. No worries, karma will bite me on the butt soon for that one. :)

Feel better soon!

P.O.M. said...

Sick, Phat, Wicked run.
I hope you and your tachycardia and tachypnea are feeling better soon.

sRod said...

Um, I'm interested in where "The Coronation of the Lamination" comes from.

heatherdaniel said...

Well, now that you got the Sick, Sick run out of your system, (awesome job, by the way!) make sure you rest up and don't have another round of typhoid or whopping cough or whatever it might be.

Debbie said...

Great run for being sick!! Hope you are feeling better by now!!

Run For Life said...

Get better quickly!

Fireflies never cease to amaze me.

bill carter said...

Hi Lam

What a great run considering... well considering nothing, everything about that run was great. It is certainly a sign though that you are hopelessly addicted to running wwhen you are out there running and feeling that lousy. Nothing beats having a fresh set of legs and a Garmin(named Rover) to prove it.

Best of luck with the continued training and I will see you at Boston next year....

The Laminator said...

Thanks for everyone's concern. I'm not technically above the weather yet, but getting there.

It's totally wierd how we tend to emotionalize everything when we're sick.

Anyway...thanks for the kind words.

 
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