Thursday, July 9, 2009

These Are Your Legs...And These Are Your Legs On Drugs

I had a horrible June, particularly when it comes to running. After Western States Camp, I just didn't seem to be able to run. I wasn't really sore, it was just that my legs seemed to not want to go. There was no power there at all. Even climbing stairs made my legs quiver. And once, I tried to go up stairs carrying my 25 pound son and I nearly fell over at the top. When I did try to run, an easy pace felt monumental; a hard pace made me light headed a gave me a general sense of unease. I would get dizzy and my heart would be racing. Hills were out of the question. I was also pretty crabby and depressed, which was probably harder on my hubby than on me!

The first week and then even the second, I just accepted this as fatigue. At the end of two weeks I still couldn't run any better - not even the tiniest improvement. So I took three days off. That turned into a week when I still couldn't seem to climb a flight of stairs normally. Finally, I went to the doctor.

My doctor is a marathoner, who even did Boston a few years back, and I was happy to be seeing someone who could relate to a runner. But she was definitely of the marathon mentality and not in sync with the ultra-runner mindset. When I told her I did a 55k on April 5th, another April 25th, then a tough 50k on May 9th, followed by a one hour track race and then 74 miles in 3 days, she was floored. She couldn't believe someone would run that much. But it didn't seem like that much to me. In fact, I still have that lingering wimp feeling for not doing the 50 miler. She was certain I was just tired and that I had a lot of microfiber damage in my legs. She did a bunch of lab work and an EKG, which all showed me to be in good shape, so she was sure she was right. She had me convinced, too. And so I followed her advice: no more than 3 miles per day for a week and then go see a physical therapist.

The physical therapist had me do all kinds of things: walking across the room, leg strength testing, core strength testing, and flexibility testing. Her diagnosis: Extremely tight and shortened iliopsoas muscles coupled with under developed inner quads. She gave me a couple of stretches for my iliopsoas and some exercises for my inner quads. But the best part was she told me I could run whatever I wanted, including speed work and distance.

I went straight to the gym, did my stretches and got on the treadmill. I felt great! I ran 6 miles including a 7:30 mile, a 7:00 mile, and a 3:15 half just to test myself. Easy-peasy-Japaneesy, this was a snap. I thought the PT was a genius if she could fix me with 5 minutes of stretching.

I had two more good days and then, Wham! back to dead legs. I didn't get it. I was doing my stretching religiously and the quad work, too. Had I just tired myself from running fairly hard the last two days? It just didn't seem right.

To make matters worse, my head felt off most of the month. I have severe seasonal allegies to grass and June is grass season in Oregon! I was pretty sure it was Claritin that made me feel off and so I stopped taking it at the end of June, but somebody at work commented that I seemed rather sniffle-ly, so I started it up again.

When I had been complaining about my problem to a friend, he asked if I was on any beta-blockers or cholesterol drugs. "Those can really affect exercise," he told me. I knew that, but I wasn't on those drugs. But then it clicked: I started taking Claritin right around the time of Western States Camp. The days I felt good, I hadn't been taking it for a while. The days I felt like crap, I had taken Claritin.

So I did some research. Muscle weakness (and dizzyness!) is one of the top three side effects. Additionally, Claritin is supposed to be an anti-histamine, but it can have anti-cholinergic effects as well. That means it can block the neurotransmitters that cause your muscles to fire.

I have been off Claritin for about ten days and I have been feeling great. It wasn't a gradual recovery; it was as if someone flipped a switch. I truly believe my woes were Claritin related, but I almost need to believe it, too, because it gives me a concrete reason for my bad month. Plus, I really hated feeling like I had done this to myself or that my body couldn't handle what I put it through or that my training wasn't good enough. Blaming Claritin restores my confidence and I like that.

Unfortunately, this whole thing kind of ruined my plan of training hard in June. My build up to PCT50 boils down to four weeks. Well, it is what it is. Also, I have a referral to an allergist, and I am hoping to get the desensitizing shots to make my allegies (and the meds!) a thing of the past!

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