Disclaimer: I do not want this post to be thought of as self-pity but I really need to get a few things off my chest and maybe clarify any misconceptions that others may have about me. I have been praised for my patience in this situation but there comes a time when patience runs out.
Since the Elvis Presley 5K, my bad days have outnumbered my good ones. My last 3 weeks have been 2.26, 2.19 and 2.09 and this is my longest slump since starting this blog. It looks like I may have got this figured out for now but if my history is any indication, it is almost certain that I will have another flare up sooner rather than later.
On a good day, I can do a 2 Mile in well under 12 minutes yet 2 days ago, I was honestly trying my best and could not even break 15 minutes and if had tried to go longer and slower, I almost certainly would have conked out after about 3-4 miles, which is what happened this morning. I had no trace of the flu or any other viral or bacterial infection and I certainly was not over training. Heck, I didn't even run the day before and have averaged less than 30 miles/wk. over the past month or so. During my best period of marathon training, I averaged close to 50 for an entire month. I think I did do a little too much speed last training cycle but that certainly would not cause a roller coaster like this. My abysmal performances on certain days can be explained by chemical imbalances alone. I would trade much of my talent as a runner for more consistency. I'd much rather be stuck running 21-22 minute 5Ks and be able to do so every day than be capable of breaking 19 one day then not being able to go sub-25 another day even though I am fresh and free of infections.
Almost as frustrating as the roller coaster ride is having to deal with people who don't understand what I am going through and in some cases, do not even consider my point of view and make negative assumptions about me, which are 100% inaccurate. When I started going downhill in undergrad, I still tried to train with the team in hopes that I could find out why my 20 year old body could not do what it was able to do at 17-18. Coach was very good to me but I cannot say the same about my teammates. Typically, I would run well maybe once a week and it would leave me so sore that I was worthless for the next 2-3 days. Because I could rarely work out with the team, I was labeled a "pussy." More recently, a few discussions on RWOL have opened up some of those old wounds. There are some posters on the Marathon Race Training Forum that think that everyone should run 80+ MPW and if you don't, you're lazy and you'll never get optimal results. It's obvious that such mileage would never work for me right now especially since on a bad day, I hit the wall after 3-4 miles and literally can't go on at a pace faster than 10:00/mile. A while back, some idiots suggested that if you cannot run a sub-5 Mile, then "you suck and you're a pansy." I don't kid myself, I never would have been much better than a midpack runner at a Division II school even if healthy but I'd have to be blind not to realize that I have above average talent when it comes to running. How many 30 year old guys out there are capable of running a quarter in 60 seconds if they trained? Not too many. I have tremendous respect for those who put in the hours of training but may not perform as well in races because they are not as talented as I am.
To the non-runners who tell me that my bad day is still better than their best day: Not entirely accurate. Even during my energy crash, I had some days that I wasn't feeling quite as bad as usual and would force myself to do a few miles. I would usually turn in a Mile in about 7 minutes, a 2 Mile in 15-16 (just like 2 days ago) and a 5K in 25-26. Any longer than that and I would hit the wall. To the average person on the street, a 7 minute mile isn't so bad and few untrained people my age can even run that fast. However, on those days, one of 2 things is happening to me. I am either extremely stiff and sore despite being fresh or I am over stimulated and get out of breath from walking up a flight of stairs. In either case, I will be crap in a workout. I would gladly trade my running talent for freedom from those symptoms. A 7 minute mile represents about a 30% slowdown from my best. To put that into perspective, if Usain Bolt lost that much of his ability, he would clock about 12.4 in the 100 and lose to an average high school sprinter. Of course, everyone would want to know what was wrong. BTW- if I don't run, my depression symptoms worsen because running releases dopamine, serotonin and adrenaline.
I think y'all get the picture. How I feel completely depends on taking the right pills at the proper dosage. That would not be so bad if this magic formula stayed constant but that's not the case. What works like magic now is unlikely to work in a month's time and I'll go through another rough patch and the cycle repeats itself. That said, why am I such a strong advocate for alternative medicine despite what I am going through? Simple. If I stayed with traditional medicine (anti-depressants), I WOULD NOT HAVE ANY GOOD DAYS!!! A "good day" would be a 15 minute 2 mile with extreme stiffness. I never was suicidal but a bad day would be laying around, not feeling like doing anything. I may have symptom free days but I've never been in balance and I really don't know how good I can be when that happens. Even a modest 5% improvement would lower my PRs to the following:
400 in 58, Mile in 5:06, 5K in 18:29. With that speed, there's no reason why I can't run a 3:10 marathon and qualify for Boston on about 60 MPW. When that happens, I will show everyone that this stuff really works. I've made tremendous progress. Take a look at my race results:
-23 minute improvement in my half marathon in 2 years. Nearly 3:00 off in the same timeframe in the 5K.
I have tried to reach out to people on RWOL that post messages indicating that they suffer from depression. Believe it or not, I've faced criticism (not from those I've tried to help but others) and have been accused of "railing against traditonal medicine and SSRI antidepressants" Again, that is not accurate. First, I don't deny that traditional medicine can be a great thing. When I got nailed by a bacterial infection, I was thankful for antibiotics. Also, I would never tell anyone to quit taking a drug if it helped them feel better. I am only interested in getting the word out about other options if anti-depressants don't work (even drug companies admit that 70% of depressed patients have unresolved symptoms) and connect patients with people qualifed to advise them in natural medicine.
I had symptoms beginning in the Fall of 1998 and masked most of them, first with thyroid medication on the bad advice of a quack physician and later with a powerful stimulant adrenal supplement. Both helped me in the short-term but likely contributed to my current instability and extreme sensitivity to the pills. Standard blood tests came back normal but when my first hair test came back, it showed that I was trending diabetic, badly hyperthyroid, hypoadrenal and in a state of adrenal exhaustion. I was also deficient in serotonin, dopamine, adrenaline and GABA (no wonder SSRIs didn't work). Obviously, I was in pretty bad shape and it explains why I had lost 30% of my running ability (more than that at longer distances). I have escaped adrenal exhaustion but as is common, my system overshot the balance point and my adrenals are now overactive. I should just take stuff to slow them down now, right? Wrong. I still have mineral deficiencies (such as chromium) that are associated with slow adrenals. Fixing one problem makes the other worse so it is a very delicate balance. I was so hopeful that I no longer needed chromium because that would mean that I had a clear path to recovery. Not so. I just hope that I can get by with very little of that stuff. When I am free from this and yes, I still have faith that I will be, I will show everyone what kind of runner I really am and more importantly, the type of person that I really am. I know this was a long rant. Thanks for listening.