Since I ran the Southern California Half Marathon 6 weeks ago, I've not felt like myself at all. If you've followed me on here or on Instagram, you've noticed my pace has slowed, I've been unsuccessful in finishing some of my runs without stopping, and have felt symptoms of overtraining. I gave myself extra rest days, adjusted my pace to make my longer runs "easy" compared to my goal pace, but nothing was working and I was still exhausted.
I decided to go to the doctor 2 weeks ago just to be sure it was just overtraining and nothing more serious. Turns out it was a bit more serious, and the first thing my doctor told me after he said I was anemic was that he wanted me to stop training for my marathon. Um, no. There is no way I am going to stop training.
Anemia - So What?
When you think about anemia, the first reaction is, "hey - just eat some more spinach and steak and you'll be good!" Iron deficient anemia is only one type - there are many other types that all have different causes and can lead to more serious issues. I got most of my information here after I left my doctor's office. One of the side effects of most types of anemia is fatigue because your body is not producing enough red blood cells. This means your organs aren't getting enough oxygen or what they need to function. This explains why I've been getting lightheaded and foggy by mile 4 on almost every run, and after that, it becomes much harder to maintain my pace because I can't increase my heart rate without feeling like I'll pass out because my oxygen is so deficient.
My doc put me on iron supplements to see if that is in fact what my anemia is stemming from. If my next set of blood tests in four weeks come back and I'm still anemic, then there is a bigger problem and I'm not suffering from iron deficient anemia. Because anemia doesn't run in my family, and it appears to have come out of nowhere, the hope is that my diet hasn't adjusted with my training or my training has brought out the lack of iron in my diet.
What Does This Mean For My Marathon?
Given all of this, I've hated running for the last month and staying focused on my end goal of completing the Big Sur Marathon in 57 days is overwhelming. I imagine this is what it feels like trying to come back from an injury or suffering from an injury. Except that my injury isn't preventing me from running, it's making running feel like a terrible chore because it is providing no satisfaction. There's a desire to do what I know I can, but my body can't keep up with my mind. While long distance running is 90% mental, sometimes the body wins, and it's heartbreaking. I've finished my last 2 long runs in tears, just unable to understand why this is happening to me, and why I feel like so horrible.
I want to keep training and will continue to do so. I will finish this marathon even if I have to crawl, but I'm scared that if it turns out this isn't just iron deficient anemia and this turns into something bigger than it should be.
Moving Forward With Training
I've cut back a lot in my training this week - reducing my miles by 25% - looking to bring it back up next week. Here's how my workouts looked this past week:
Saturday Long Run: 12 miles at an 8:50 pace. Stopped about 7 times which is ridiculous.
Sunday : Body Pump. Made it through about 45 minutes of class, then went on a 2 mile hike in Palos Verdes with Ricky.
Monday: 5.6 miles at 8:08 pace. First run faster than 8:30 pace in a while.
Tuesday: 5.5 mile dreadmill run at an 8:34 pace. Still mastering this machine and still hating it.
Thursday: 7 miles at 8:33 pace.
I missed running with the GRVL Runners on Thursday, primarily because running has lacked so much joy for me since I got this news that I've wanted to run on my own while I figure it out - while I get back to a place where I end a run feeling strong, rather than defeated. I've also stopped hitting up the gym as much because my legs and arms are so weak. Next week, I plan on getting back into a groove, with the hopes that the iron supplements I'm taking start working. I have 16 miles scheduled tomorrow morning, and I'm hopeful that I can at least run the entire way without stopping. Pace is no longer my goal. My goal is to keep running while I can and to get healthy again.