Sunday, 20 December 2015

Tiredness Update

This blog is an update in how I am feeling. I have not written it as I feel sorry for myself; I have written it for two reasons. Firstly, I hope it is useful or interesting for other people who have been through or will go through similar experiences. Secondly, a selfish reason, which is that it is great to have a blog written down as to how I am feeling and my thoughts at the time. I can then look back at any point and see my recovery (or lack of it). I really enjoy reading reports from inspirational runners who have just won a race but many people are suffering from various injuries and illnesses and it is really important that all this information is out there for people to read.

My symptoms seemed to have settled down, instead of just complaining about feeling tired I feel I can now catalogue them.
1)    Persistent exhaustion that has now been going on for 6 months. But there were also signs ever since I completed my Wainwrights run. So even 12 months ago after a long hard race it would take me two weeks to recover and feel up to running again.
2)    ‘Brain fog’. I cannot think straight or concentrate and my short-term memory is absolutely awful. This normally clears around midday and by the evening I feel back to normal. But on a good day it might clear at 10am, on a bad day it might never clear. When the ‘brain fog’ is bad I find it impossible to write a simple email or even remember a simple instruction.
3)    The persistent wish to go to sleep even when I have just had an 8-9 hour sleep.
4)    Disturbed sleep. If I am in a bad phase, I wake up in the middle of the night and cannot get back to sleep
5)    Regular headaches.

 I also now know three things that make it worse:
1)    A long fast fell run (90 minutes or more). Particular bad is a long hard run before breakfast. After this I can feel shattered for a week or more.
2)    A big drinking session. I have just had my works Christmas ‘do’. For three days after it I was exhausted and I found thinking and concentrating nearly impossible. All I wanted to do was lie in bed.
3)    A stressful situation, such as having to give a talk in front of a group of people. On the next day I will again by really tired and find even a slow run impossible.
What does not seem to cause any problems is a run (or jog) up to an hour, as long as I keep my heart rate down below 130 beats per minute. In fact being outside relaxing my mind seems to help.

As I mentioned in my last blog the doctors have given me a blood test and have found nothing wrong. So what is the problem? The symptoms are those that are found in either Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) or Over Training Syndrome. There are various theories about these illnesses and one of these concerns hormones, which brings me onto another possibility which is adrenal fatigue (where the adrenal gland is above the kidney and it is responsible for producing hormones particularly adrenaline and cortisol). This is still not a medically recognised condition and as such there is still a considerable amount of controversy about it, but the symptoms again correspond with what I am suffering from. At the moment I also like this diagnosis because there seems to be a scientific explanation of why the stresses I have put my body under for the last 18 months would have caused me to feel as I do.

Vicky Ware has produced an article for cyclists about adrenal fatigue here: 
Here are a couple more:

I am not a biochemist and with my ‘brain fog’ as it currently is, I still cannot work out the full details of all this, but it does make sense to me. For example, in general the hormone cortisol is highest in the morning, whereas if you have adrenal fatigue this is not the case. This would therefore explain the reason why I feel so lousy in the morning. Also loads of cortisol is released during a long hard run, so for the next several days all the stores are exhausted and I feel absolutely shattered.

As for the future, I feel confident I will return to running at a top level. My mind-set has finally changed. As an ultra-runner I need to ignore my body when it is telling me to stop. I have to carry on pushing it and pushing it, accepting it hurts but ignoring the pain. Finally my body has caught up with me. So instead of fighting my body I now need to be very gentle and work with it (which is basically the treatment for any of the possible diagnoses). I can now happily accept that I am not going to run hard again until I have fully recovered and then wait a while afterwards. I am also going to avoid alcohol. Avoiding stresses in my life is harder but I know I can do it. I have no more talks planned in the near future and the work will become easier once I can think straight again. The human body has an amazing ability to recover if you look after it and that is what I need to do.

Here are a couple of pictures to finish the blog. These are when I did get to the top of a fell (Threlkeld Knotts) in November.