I can tell you that ultra runners and the ultra running community can provide some of the most interesting stories you could ever ask for. You get humor, gross, heartfelt, cringeworthy and everything in between. Time spent talking to any of the individuals that participate in these events, or those around them, is time well spent.
During the Marquette race this year, I honestly thought I had the mother of all one liner stories when I got into an aid station and looked Katara straight in the face and said, “I need you to follow me to the bathroom so I can drop my pants and you can check my testicles”. The look on her face was priceless! Look, there was a medical reason…as near as we can figure, I had a partially twisted testicle after a nasty little slip a few miles previous that literally dropped me like a rock and had me dry heaving. My friend Peter didn’t even blink, but he knew I needed to make sure it wasn’t a hernia. I just wasn’t thinking at all at that point, so those are the words that came out. Classic right?
Little did I know the joke was on me as maybe the mother of all one liner’s I would hear came a few weeks later. See, I had been having some issues dating back to June which had me heading back to the doctor for bloodwork every few weeks. Each test was showing different results and they were having trouble nailing down a cause. Then I got a call from Doc and after a pregnant pause I heard, “You’re hormonal”...... uh, excuse me? What did you say?? I certainly never expected to hear that statement thrown in my direction, yet there it was.
Funny, I know. If I’d have had a drink I’d have spit it out I’m sure! As it turns out, the additional body stress of the multiple races back-to-back had pushed me over a line my body couldn’t adapt to fast enough. A cascade effect resulted. You see, I have always been mildly hypothyroid. The thyroid controls a multitude of processes and as the thyroid went bananas, so did those processes apparently. In the end it was as simple as adjusting my thyroid medicine by 25% and within three weeks I was back to normal.
It’s a good thing I have a close relationship to my doctor, but it is worth talking about his process here as well. When we think of things that sideline runners or anyone that pushes that bodies hard, the first and usually only thought is always a physical injury. There is so much more that can happen though, so here are a few things to watch for that should signal you to see your doc:
1. Fatigue - I don’t mean like, “Man that was a tough day and I need a few extra hours of sleep.” I’m talking the kind of fatigue that never goes away; sleeping 10 hours a day, taking naps and still feeling like you’re constantly ready to fall asleep while you’re awake.
2. Muscle Soreness - Again, this is not like the, “Hey, I just had a hard workout,” variety and it goes away after a day or two. More like, “Hey, I just ran three miles and feel like it was 100!” Muscles that constantly ache and keep you awake at night kind of feeling.
3. Unquenchable thirst - This one is particularly tricky as we are so often worried about dehydration it can be easy to confuse. But if you are constantly drinking, going to the bathroom excessively and your urine is unhealthily clear at all times (a sign of being over hydrated) it is something to take note of.
4. Random spikes in heart rate and blood pressure - You’ve done this workout a million times and suddenly in the middle of this one you can feel your heart racing, you’re having trouble catching your breath and you feel dizzy like you’re going to pass out. Yeah, that kind of ‘not normal’. We all have rough days, and some days this can happen and you should just adjust accordingly. However, if it happens repeatedly it’s a definite warning sign.
Look, We all know our bodies pretty well. These symptoms can present for a multitude of reasons and sometimes they aren’t so serious or resolve themselves. It can also be easily ignored or brushed aside in our constant drive to push ourselves. I just encourage you to listen to your body. Even non-traditional signals sent by your body can be warning signs you shouldn’t ignore, and with any luck the next story you tell to add to the lore of our sport will be one of epic success, humor or an example of the human spirit.