My Story with Shingles


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.