Susan and I walked the neighborhood loop this morning, the short version, just as the world heated up. I planned to go running, something longish—maybe eight miles on the road or seven in the woods. But I didn’t gather my stuff last night before bed, and I didn’t set an alarm for the morning. I should have known it wouldn’t happen. Lack of preparation is a sure sign I don’t really want to go.
Sophie got her wisdom teeth out on Wednesday and Susan took the day off to care for her. Throughout the day, Sophie stayed in bed and called Susan on her phone whenever she needed something. At first, I found it absurd that Sophie called on the phone, but then, realizing the alternative was to shout with her mutilated mouth, I decided ‘brilliant’ described it better. Thursday was my day off, my turn to help, Sophie never called. She needed nothing. She got her own meals (milkshakes), and while unusually quiet, she was pretty much back to her old self. By noon, it was clear I was wasting a day off work. I went for a run.
This summer is summery, brutal. Weeks of no rain and high temps, everything is brown. Lawn mowers sit idle in stuffy garages, people shelter in their air-conditioned homes. At noon, driving out into the park, the car thermometer read ninety-one. For the past few years, I’ve avoided high temperature runs. In my thirties, I sought them out. On the hottest day each summer, the Washington Post’s A1 photo was always a shirtless runner in front of the Lincoln Memorial or the Washington Monument, blurred by heat waves, cranking out a tongue-wagging run under the blazing sun. I was always out there, but sadly, the photo was never of me.
I can’t do this anymore. Since February, after I got sick with the flu, I’ve battled bouts of dizziness when I get overheated. I’m not talking about little pangs of light-headedness; I’m talking about having to stop running because I’m about to fall down or pass out or vomit. My doctor, eager for me to continue exercising hard, prescribed some changes. He stopped my blood pressure medication and my cholesterol statins, and he told me to start drinking electrolytes while I run. And for two weeks, exercise has been good, but my hard runs were always done before the heat of the day.
I saw Thursday’s mid-day run as a test. A test I failed. I planned to run that seven-mile trail loop I was considering this morning. My run started with a wooded, flat two miles. I felt fine. Hot, but fine. My route changed abruptly to a downhill, treeless dirt road across a historic farm. A quarter-mile later my head was spinning. A quarter-mile farther, I packed it in. I turned around and began walking back up the road, back to the shade.
I got out for my run today, sort of. I speed-hiked the Abigail Trail. It’s a four-plus mile loop. It includes two mile-long downhills at the start and end of the hike, and a two-mile rocky uphill over the top of a mountain in the middle. I’ve hiked this trail before and I’ve run this trail before. Today, I ran the downs and hiked the ups. I was moderately dizzy on the ups.
It’s time to contact my doctor again. Ditching my medicines hasn’t solved the problem, and I’m getting a little freaked out about my blood pressure readings. 159/95 is too high for day to day living. It’s not quite in the ‘dangerous’ zone, but much higher than when medicated. God knows what my cholesterol is doing.
When I saw my doctor last, he told me the next step in the evaluation process is a stress test. They use this procedure to look for heart disease. I’m having a hard time reconciling that possibility. I’m active every single day. But stepping back to earlier in this story, I’ve been feeling off since I got sick in February. Not only with dizziness but also shortness of breath. Susan and my kids got sick too, really sick. At the time we all joked that we got Covid-19. Funny only because the United States only had a handful of cases at that point. Now we know that the disease has been running rampant in the US since January, and thousands of flu cases were really Covid-19. Covid-19 can damage the heart and lungs. Possibly before a stress test, my next test should be an antibody test.
Or maybe I just can’t exercise in the heat anymore. Susan and my kids have Ukrainian heritage. None of them can perform when overheated. Their faces turn beet red and on rare occasion they throw up. Maybe dizziness is just my body’s way of telling me to cool it, that I’m overdoing it. In March I saw my doctor for a physical. At the time, I told him about getting out of breath really easily. He said I might just be suffering from O.L.D. Syndrome. If that’s the case, I’m going to have to move north in the next couple of years. Pennsylvania is getting noticeably hotter every summer.
~ ~ ~
Advertisement: After tons of research, I settled on Hammer Nutrition Endurolytes Fizz®. One of my mountain biking friends swears by it, and now I do too. While my head is struggling on these runs, the rest of my body is far happier running with Endurolytes Fizz®. It’s not sugary at all and while it contains sodium, not the 400mg to 700mg per serving that competing brands carry.
Photo by Maarten van den Heuvel on Unsplash (that’s not me).