Saturday, December 20, 2008

Holiday Trouble

Normal people make the winter the off-season for training for a very good reason.

We are not normal people, apparently. We sign up for events in the winter or early spring that require us to train through the short days, the cold weather, and the holidays.

We're not very smart. I remember last year saying, 'never again in the winter.' Then I signed up for the same danged marathon in February and added that half Ironman in early April.

Not very smart.

So I have these aggressive training schedules made for both of us. We're plugging along, doing our best to put in the hours. Basta is doing a lot better at it than I am. He's much like a machine that way. You tell him do x at y intensity for z duration on this day and he does it. It takes a lot for him to miss a scheduled workout.

But me? I am missing workouts.

Not for lack of discipline. No, I have a problem. An odd problem. It's taken me quite a while to figure it out but I think I now know what it is.

It started Thanksgiving weekend. Training was going pretty well up to that point. We were back from vacation in Holland. My fitness was improving. The runs were going pretty well, the swims very well, and the bike was the bike. Normal training. I was upping the hours slowly but surely and trying to push the pace at times. Good.

Then, Thanksgiving. Much food and festivity. We had a huge turkey feast at Basta's sister's place. Basta likes to cook and is quite the home chef, so he made another turkey feast for just us two days later. That resulted in a lot of leftovers.

And my training went to hell. It hurt to run. Not just the normal, 'oh ow ache here twinge there' stuff that you get in the first couple of miles. No. This felt like a thousand little razors were embedded in my leg muscles, sawing back and forth as I ran. Hurt. Ache. Pain. Hurt.

Along with that came a hugely elevated heart rate and the feeling that my eyeballs were being pressed out from the inside. I checked my blood pressure and it was high. 120/79. Normal according to the standard charts, but that's quite high for me. Usually it is around 90/60.

I had no energy on the bike or the swim, either. As soon as I'd start a workout my heart rate would take off like a jackhammer and my ability to perform or continue for very long would plummet.

I assumed overtraining at first. Seems most likely, no? I'd increased my workout volume by a good jump. My last good long run was 14 miles. I didn't think I'd increased my training volume by an excessive amount, but maybe my body just couldn't handle. It could be overtraining. That's what all of my fellow athletes thought it was, too.

So I took a few days off. Didn't really feel any different. I started to think maybe I was dehydrated. Realized I hadn't been consuming much besides coffee or wine lately. Started sucking down the water and the electrolyte drinks. Didn't make much of a difference.

By now I was really worried. My training was going to hell. It just hurt too much. I couldn't actually run, so I tried run/walking. 5 minutes of running followed by a minute or so of walking. That really didn't help, either. It just hurt to run.

Then I had a burst of insight. This all started around Thanksgiving. That's when my diet changed pretty radically. I was eating things that I don't normally eat. I know that I am sensitive to a lot of foods. Maybe this was a food intolerance problem.

Common symptoms of food intolerance are nausea, indigestion, diarrhea . . . Gastrointestinal complaints. I wasn't experiencing any of that. But a little research showed that other common symptoms are fatigue, muscle pain, joint aches, rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, headache, and itchy skin, among others. I was having all of those. While those same symptoms can be caused by a whole world of things, I think I was on to something.

But what could it be? Something that I'd been eating a lot of starting on Thanksgiving day and continuing for several days thereafter. Something I don't usually eat . . .

I started eliminating foods and trying to isolate what it was. That isn't easy, especially this time of year with all of the parties and potlucks that one must attend. Who knows what is in that stuffing, after all?

Well, to cut to the chase of a long story, I think I know what it is: Turkey. I think I have poultry allergy. It's not all that common but it does exist. Google it if you don't believe me. I never eat chicken because it causes my throat to swell and my face and neck to turn red and itch. Turkey hasn't bothered me in the past, but apparently now, all of the sudden, it does.

It takes several days for the symptoms to abate after consuming something your body doesn't like. I was both turkey and pork-free for about a week and things were improving nicely. I did a 10K last weekend and felt pretty good. Like I'd missed some training and wasn't in the best shape, but not like my heart was going to explode. Then we had a department potluck at work. Several turkeys were cooked. I had a few pieces, just to test my theory. Could I really be allergic or intolerant to turkey?

Yes, I absolutely can. Within moments of eating the turkey my skin began itching all over. Face, neck, stomach, back, legs. Whole body itching. Plus my heart took off and I timed it at 95bpm while just sitting at my desk at work later that day.

I tried to run the next day, which was yesterday, and it was a disaster. Every step hurt. Not typical muscle pain, but the same feeling of stabbing knives as before. I had to cut the run short and walk home.

Today I tried to ride the bike and had a very similar experience. That doesn't cause the pain so much but it shoots my heart rate through the absolute roof. I can't push out more than about 100watts or I feel like I'm going to die. That didn't make for such a good bike this morning.

So, here I am. I need to avoid all poultry if I ever plan to complete the events I'm signed up for. The marathon in Feb is already looking really iffy, given my lack of ability to train. I still have 13 weeks to go until Oceanside so I'm hoping to still get plenty ready for that.

Come the new year, I'm going on a complete detox program. All vegetarian, no booze, serious workouts for the entire month. See if I can truly clear out my body of whatever is bothering it and actually feel good during a workout again.

Looking forward to that.

First, though, we're headed up to see my parents for Christmas. Cold, snowy, fun. Will try to ski a time or two while there. I found a gym nearby and we will try to do some guest workouts while we're there. If my theory is correct I should feel normal by then and can get some good workouts done.