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This is my dog Augie. He is an almost 12 year old terrier/car chaser mix that my wife and I picked up from a farmer near our home town the day we came back from our honeymoon. Like a lot of old dogs he has gotten grey around his face. He has moles pop up and he is a little lumpy in spots from fatty tumors. We don't think much about it as he still gets around really well, is healthy, likes to get out for a walk or explore the yard as much as possible. He has even taken up mole hunting as discovered by the giant holes that have cropped up lately in the side yard. But he is still an old dog and getting some of these signs of old age are just part of things.
I on the other hand am a young 36 years old. I'm fit! I put in 20+ miles on the trail almost every Saturday. I can go 100 miles at a pop over rough terrain and be in good enough health to sign up for another one. I am bullet proof! Turns out, that is not exactly the case.
A few months back I noticed a small lump along the side of my spine on the lower left hand side of my back. At first I did not think much of it. I assumed it was just a swollen gland or maybe some inflamed tissue from wearing my hydration pack. It never went away. It stayed the same size. It did not hurt and I only noticed it when I sat in a chair where there was back support that hit it directly so I continued to ignore it. After trying to tell myself over and over that it is nothing I finally had an "ah-ha" moment. I am not immune to anything. I am a living breathing human who is susceptible to being sick, to getting cancer, to bad things. I am a father and a husband first and foremost. I cannot be stubborn and block headed about my health. It is not an acceptable way to act as a grown ass adult.
I scheduled a Dr.'s appointment and met with an excellent doctor who was fairly certain it was nothing but he did not like where it was at so he sent me to a specialist that I met with a few weeks later. The specialist again thought it was nothing as well. He brought in his partner to look at it as well and they decided they could remove it right there in the office if I wanted. I immediately said "Yes, let's remove it."
After about 20 minutes I had been numbed up, cut open, and the little bit of fatty tissue was removed. The specialist both again said it appeared to be nothing but they sent it off for testing just to be sure. I walked out of the office with a small cut on my back and no more lump. Feeling better but I still had the cloud of "what if?" hanging over me. I anxiously waited for the lab to call and 4 days later they did and everything was fine. It turns out that I am just a little lumpy... just like Augie.
Things are moving along as I look toward planning the 2014 season. Per usual, the lottery gods did not smile upon me but I'm sure I'll figure out a way to have some fun next year. I have my roll over to Grindstone 100 in October since it was canceled due to the government shutdown and I think I'm going to head back to McNaughton Park in Pekin, IL in April to hit the Potawatomi 100. I'll throw some races in there along the way before and between, but as of now those will be my anchor races. Training is going well as I set my base and begin growing out my average monthly miles. While the weekly miles are not quite where I want them to be yet. The weekend miles are going great. I'm moving my average Saturday runs from about 21 miles to 25-28. In fact, yesterday these 3 dudes cracked off 32 miles in the cold temps.
I also have not drank a cup of real coffee in over 3 weeks! This is pretty big for me. I'm (was) a coffee drinker. The smell of it, taste of it, finding new beans, the ritual of making it in the morning... I love it!! But I was having some cramping issues that I could not track down so I decided to take a shot at getting off the stimulants and see where that would get me. It seems that the cramping has gone away and as a super added bonus, I sleep like a baby. I go to bed early. I don't get up during the night to go to the bathroom. I wake up alert. It's pretty great. There are also some potential athletic benefits to more sleep so overall it seems to be the right move to make. I do miss it and think that eventually I'll have a cup every now and then just to enjoy it. Ultimately it feels great to not be so reliant on something every morning to wake up. Plus I am over the headaches and wanting to punch the walls from the withdrawals so I figure it's best to stay off it a bit longer.
After reading Geoff Roes' "One Story about Overtraining" I decided I should do something similar about my run in with Shingles. Mainly because of the total cloud that existed throughout my entire discovery of the root cause. While I can't tie my breakout of shingles directly to overtraining, I also cant fully dismiss it.
I was cleared by my GI doctor back in May and he confirmed that all of my symptoms of; dizziness, headaches, digestion issues, abdominal pain, bloating were all related to having the shingles virus attack the right side of my torso where the gallbladder and small intestines are located. Since the virus it is a nervous system disorder, there can be a lot of symptoms that occur for weeks, even months before the actual rash appears on the skin with no clear signal of what is causing it. Fun right? "You bet!"
Lets step back a bit into 2012 to see where this all started. I trained hard though a really hot summer and put myself in a solid position to run a strong Tahoe 100 in July. That didn't quite come together as planned but I finished knowing that I'd be taking on another 100 before the year was over to make up for my less than stellar performance. I quickly threw my name in for Ozark Trail 100 in early November. I continued to train hard as well as put together and direct my first race in September with the great help of my friend and Co-RD Tommy Doias. We worked hard, lost lots of sleep and were generally stressed out most of the time but we pulled it off and felt great about it.
On the work front, a co-worker quit and I took over some of their duties. I continued to do a few jobs as well as get my training volume up to continue to prepare for Ozark Trail. I ran Ozark, had a good race but could feel myself being worn down. Not just the "I ran 100 miles" worn down, but physically and mentally I was not firing on all cylinders. I decided to lay off and give myself a break from training all together. I took a trip to New Orleans where I slept little and drank much. It was a relaxing and great time but I kept digging that whole of exhaustion even though I was not tearing myself down in training. Shortly after that, flu season hit and the Liles household was not exempt. I was sick for a week or so then finally jumped back on the training wagon so I could hit my yearly goal of 2400 miles just as the year closed out. Maybe I was coming around?
Not so fast! January was terrible. I could not get it together. I was fatigued all the time. My legs felt like lead and my breathing was labored all the time along with some random chest pains on the upper right side. I gave up and threw in the towel in January. In Feb, I continued my downward spiral and all of my symptoms hit full on, mirror that of a gallbladder disease. I went to the doctor where I had ultrasounds and HIDDA scans to determine if my gallbladder was going need to be removed. I passed every test with flying colors. The doctors even noted on several occasions, "you are one of the healthiest people we've had in here." "Awesome" I'd say "then why do I feel so bad?"
It was getting depressing. I was sick all the time and no one knew why. I'd changed my diet drastically to combat any food allergies but my body responded different all the time. I could eat an amazing meal of whole foods and feel terrible or eat fast food and feel amazing. I could do that same thing the next day and get the exact opposite result. I was refereed to a GI specialist with the instructions of "we need to get his blessing to get your gallbladder out because I think that is the issue even though we have not evidence." I was desperate. I r-e-a-l-l-y don't need a gallbladder so lets just get the damn thing out so we can cross that off. How silly is that? And what a desperate though. "Cut out an organ just because"
Somewhere between waiting for my appointment at the G.I. doctor and late February I started feeling better. I was running again and even hit a 50 mile week. However I caught what I thought was some poison oak on my side right where my pack hit then extended to my chest and to the middle of my back. Great, I just got back to training and now something on my pack from months ago is going to mess it up. Well that rash grew, became more red, and hurt super bad. It hurt so bad in fact that I was losing sleep as I could not sleep in a single position where I was not on the irritation. Time to go to the prompt care and get a shot to get rid of this poison oak. I arrived at prompt care and showed the doctor the rash and she quickly replied... "nope, that shingles"
Shingles! What am I, a 70 year old? Regardless, it does not matter. ALL of my issues came from this virus that sits in your body and may or may not ever come out. It was the perfect storm of stresses hitting me, training, work, race directing, flu season, all around the same time and boom, I was a mess of sickness. Today, I'm running as if it never happened. As debilitating as this virus was for 2 months it just went away and I am fine now. Interestingly there is not much that can be done about shingles other than wait it out for someone my age. I can get a shot in 25 years or so that will suppress it. In the mean time I just have to keep the stress down I guess.
So why write all this? Well, it sucked and as a generally healthy person to have some sort of illness that takes (in some cases) months to fully come to a head is a painful experience. Second, I have not written a post in a while Third, since having it I have heard many stories from others about Shingles and how it has done everything from put a young man in a wheelchair and another to think he was having a heart attack all to just go away as fast as it came. This is my story, hopefully you don't have one like it. If you are having weird health issues and have had chicken pox as a kid.... don't forget about shingles as a possible cause.