O.L.D.

maarten-van-den-heuvel-ky1w7eac5EM-unsplash

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).

27 thoughts on “O.L.D.

  1. I will definitely check the Fizz out. I have the same problem and I am waiting to see the doctor for the same reason. Well, overall, I just need a physical. But I cannot seem to drop a pound, no matter what diet or what else I eliminate from my diet. And one of the reasons I slowed down my running was because I was getting woozy going too long in the heat or going up any hills. Dehydration is not my issue – I am a hydration freak. I also turn the deepest red when I run in the heat or try to lift. I usually steer clear of any deep exertion in the summer months because I know this is my weakness. But, I had hoped to start increasing my mileage in the Fall. I am still waiting to see the doctor, but in the meantime, I will definitely try out the Fizz you reference. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Eli has recently been drinking Gatorade during practice. I hate that stuff. It’s all sugar. I wish he’d switch to Endurolytes too. I really need to get on top of the dizzy and out of breath thing. Unfortunately, I’m going to need to take it seriously and move forward with a stress test.

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  2. I’ve experienced what you described, often, and it’s why I run first thing in the morning. I’ve never run well in the heat; I have to slow way down. By running in the morning, not only do I avoid the worst of the heat, but I’m more consistent (i.e. life doesn’t get in the way of my run on any given day).

    A couple thoughts about the heat+shortness of breath+dizziness. 1. Years ago I learned the hard way that I’m prone to hyponatremia (too little salt in the bloodstream because of overhydration), especially when running in hot weather and sweating a lot. It took a while to figure out because the symptoms are almost identical to dehydration (too little water/too much salt), i.e. dizziness, nausea, high heart rate. My kidneys didn’t process the water I was drinking – I wasn’t peeing – so my blood got diluted. I started taking salt tablets on long runs and felt much better. Today, electrolyte drinks and candies offer the same benefit but remember, you’re an experiment of one so listen to your body to find the right balance. Also, maybe get blood work to check your levels of magnesium and potassium. Not sure how your blood pressure and statin meds might impact those minerals; ask your doc; but they need to be in balance with sodium for optimal muscle function. (Eat more bananas!) 2. The other trick I learned that helped me tolerate heat better is to carry a damp sponge with me. Soak it with cold water when you start. Simply periodically wiping your face and neck can help trick your brain into thinking it’s cooler, especially if there’s even a hint of a breeze. If you have enough water with you – or streams handy – get your head/hair wet as well. Or run through sprinklers 🙂

    Good luck and keep running! I hope you discover it’s something as simple as electrolytes or adjusting your blood pressure & statin meds, that you didn’t have Covid-19 (or if you did, that it didn’t cause any lasting damage to your lungs).

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    • Once in a marathon, I had my digestive system shut down due to electrolyte imbalance. I think these fizz tablets are a good idea for me. Often during a run I stop drinking because I’m craving salt, not water. As part of my recent diet reboot, I’ve been eating bananas fairly frequently. In fact a banana and a bagel has become my go-to breakfast before a run. I’m sure I’m going to be religious about getting an early start for a few weeks. I hate having runs disrupted (or ended) because I don’t feel well.

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  3. All my ultra-marathoner buddies use the Hammer nutrition supplements.. there have been many a heated debate about sodium, potassium, and glucose percentages to reach this conclusion. Glad to see you’ve reached the same! Stress test and COVID test sound like very reasonable next steps. Hopefully they’ll provide an answer of sorts?

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    • Also, when Hammer sent me my order, the sent about $30 worth of samples plus they called me on the phone to see if I had any questions or feedback. Plus, they are in Whitefish MT which has to be the coolest town in America.

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  4. My husband and I had antibody tests back in May because we thought we may have been exposed by a family member and our primary doctor was doing an informal study and encouraged them. (Ours were negative and the positive rate was around 2% amongst the hundreds of people she tested.) Now I think they’re more commonplace and should be easy enough to get. But that heat. It’s brutal just being outside, doing nothing.

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    • So this is the conversation that keeps going through my head… “It’s in the nineties Jeff, of course you’re struggling.” But then I remember in years past, I struggled in the heat, but without the dizziness. Something has changed. When I last saw my doctor, he wasn’t very high on the accuracy of the antibody test and he thought it might be hard to find one (I live in a small, rural town). I’m going to start looking into the test and as my wife suggested, figure out if insurance is going to pay for it.

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      • My employer’s health added an amendment that covers all covid testing, to include antibody tests. If it hadn’t been covered, the cost would have been $55 for that particular test. The dizziness is definitely something to keep an eye on and have it checked out – good luck!

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  5. Your enthusiasm for sporting in the heat almost makes me want to get outside and do something. Almost. So far, entropy is winning that battle. Maybe later when the cooler weather gets here. LIke, midnight or thereabouts.

    Good on you for keeping your doctors informed. A lot of people ignore ‘little’ signs and pay for it later. Be safe, be vigilant, and stay cool.

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  6. Hope you get it all sorted out. It definitely sounds like a doctor visit is a good idea. I had the antibody test and it was negative, which I pretty much expected. I remember when you and the fam were all sick, so you never know!

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    • Well, in an earlier draft, I led you there with a metal leash. I actually said the flu or Covid. I doubt I had it, but this ‘not right’ feeling has been going on since I was sick. Pretty tired of it. The trick is trying to figure out how to overcome it. I really thought it was the statin.

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  7. I think it can take a while to fully recover from the flu sometimes, that post-viral fatigue is a thing. Richard got sick last year and it took about 6 months before he felt 100% again, and he’s a fit, healthy dude too. Nonetheless I do hope you see your doctor, it is way better to be safe than sorry. Hope he can help ya fix it soon.

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  8. Jeff I admire the hell out of your tenacity. To even THINK about running in the heat, let alone actually DOING it…. But I’m not a runner, nor a fan of heat (even though I’ve lived in Arizona my entire life), so just reading this made me feel like I needed to lie down in a tub of ice! 😉 In all seriousness though, I do hope you get back on the bp meds or your doctor helps you find a combination that works well for you, and I would push for the Covid antibody test if I were you. Just for peace of mind, especially knowing that having it can cause permanent damage in some people. Stay safe!!

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    • Well, heat-wise, Pennsylvania is hardly Arizona, although the humidity adds an interesting element. I appreciate your well-wishes. I’ve just completed 2 days without dizziness which is a real treat for me lately. My doctor is pretty down on the antibody test. He feels they are too inaccurate with too many false positives AND negatives to be of any use at all.

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  9. Wait, what? You went for a run at NOON in Gettysburg? It must have been crazy hot! My 35-year-old son can do it but I can’t anymore. Bill takes blood pressure medication too. He and his doctor had to fiddle with his dosage and the type of medication he was taking to accommodate his long runs. I am glad you could get off the statins, though. I would bet the dizziness is a result of the heat but you don’t want to take any chances. We runners tend to feel as though we are invincible.

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  10. Jeff, I can relate. I believe my issues, mainly around not being able to get my heartrate to plane, are related to dehydration. It leads to walking on climbs I would normally run. I am trying to do two things, drink more electrolyte when not running, eat more food in general. On the first day of heavy sweat, I deal pretty well, but as I repeat the cycle, day-after-day, I can’t eat and drink as I normally do AND replace everything I’m burning. The other thing I’m doing is accept more walking. I’m trying to view my “runs” more in the ultra-style, i.e. covering the ground, without forcing myself to hold pace, or even run everything. I’m not doing much beyond 10-12 miles, so it’s not ultra-running, but in this heat, I think taking that strategy is helping me do more without endangering my health.

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    • I appreciate this comment. It gives me a lot to think about. The day to day accumulation of fatigue isn’t really something I’ve worried about before, but I’ve also never been 57 before. I’ve been treating runs as ultra-style since I ran an ultra 3 years ago. I’ve become overly comfortable with walking breaks. This period I’m in now isn’t helping that.

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  11. Oh, and… I meant ‘plain’ not ‘plane.’ and…I had the flu twice this last winter/spring AND a mild Covid. I wonder if the lingering lung issues are a thing, or I’m just getting older, too.

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