Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Back to racing – but is it too soon?

I am lying in a bed in a hospital ward at the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle with the world’s loudest snorer on one side of me and a guy with pneumonia on the other. I thought I was recovering from my fatigue so why am I lying here?

For the last year I have occasionally been suffering from strange heartbeats. When it happened I had lots of short beats instead of my usual steady slow heartbeat. They were fairly common (every week or so) when I was at my worst at the start of the year but I had not had any episodes for the last couple of months. They were always fine the next day but I was concerned about them, was it possible I might be about to have a massive heart attack?  At the end of June I was out for my normal steady 40 minutes run, the only unusual thing was that it was hot and really humid so I was sweating loads. I ran up the one short hill on the route and I knew immediately that my heart felt funny. I took my pulse and it was really inconsistent and racing away at around 150-160 beats per minute, although hard to count due to its inconsistency. After resting for a minute or two there was no change. So I jogged home very slowly and it was still as bad. I decided that I should really get it checked out while it was bad, so I went to Keswick hospital and was given an ECG. The nurse looked concerned and called the on-duty GP who told me the problem was atrial fibrillation (AF) (not life threatening but needing to be checked out) and sent me to Carlisle hospital. It was strange that they seemed so concerned and worried as I felt fine and was happy it would be OK the next morning. I was not allowed to take the bus so my wife, Emma, had to drive me, which was a real pain for her and the children. After lots more ECGs it was finally back to normal the next morning and I was allowed to leave. It was good to know what the problem was but really annoying having to spend the night in a ward not sleeping. A night without sleep certainly did not help my fatigue.

Lying in the ward, completely bored and unable to sleep got me thinking. The question was: were the AF and the chronic fatigue related? They started around the same time. The doctors in the hospital thought the AF was causing my chronic fatigue but did not understand that I am obsessed by taking my pulse so I know for certain how occasionally it happens and that there had not been an episode for over two months. So it did not make sense that the AF was causing the fatigue. But it made me think that it was possible there was something else causing both problems. Magnesium deficiency is associated with both AF and chronic fatigue. Could this be my problem? I have had lots of blood tests but none have measured my magnesium (it seems that  in general GPs only test magnesium concentrations in old people). Even if I had a magnesium blood test it might not pick up a problem as only a small fraction of magnesium in the body is found in the blood. It is also strange that good sources of magnesium are vegetables and nuts and as a vegetarian I eat lots of these sorts of foods. But Magnesium is sweated out and I have always sweated loads and thought my problems were a deficiency in something as a consequence of this. I have found this article interesting (

So as well as being even more careful in eating lots of green vegetables and nuts I have started to take magnesium citrate supplements up to the recommended daily allowance ( If you take much more than the recommended daily allowance of Magnesium it causes diarrhoea). I have also cut right back on my tea drinking as that might affect the magnesium absorption into the body. I have also tried having baths in Epsom salts (Magnesium sulphate) to see if that helps. [I know sometimes when you are not right you will try anything to get better and taking Magnesium supplements might be a complete ‘red herring’. So if there is anyone reading this with knowledge of any of this I would be very interested in hearing from you]
The other major thing I have tried is a course of Acupuncture, which a number of people have recommended for chronic fatigue.

Whether it was the magnesium, acupuncture or just time I suddenly started to feel loads better within a month of my stay in hospital. I ran up Snowdon on holiday and found it quite easy and felt no tiredness the next day. Other two hour runs were similarly good. My concentration was improving and almost back to normal in the morning (when my concentration is worst)
I decided to test my body out with a race. I did the Rab Mini Mountain Marathon event from Braithwaite in the Lake District. A four hour score event over the Coledale fells. This seemed like a good start as I was not running directly against anyone and if I felt tired I could just give up and jog back to the finish. I felt OK for the first 3 hours and although I slowed right down I managed to keep jogging to the finish. I was very happy to have finished and to be the second highest scorer – although partly because I chose a good rote and did not make any navigation mistakes. The next day I felt tired but not completely wiped out.

Two weeks later I then did the Lake District Mountain Trail. Again I struggled after about 3 hours and this time I got really bad. I felt really dizzy and very nearly gave up – I lay down for a minute at one point wondering why I was doing this race. But I had to get back to the finish somehow so I carried on and eventually, after five hours, picked up again to finish in 5 hours 37 minutes in 9th place. My legs felt fine the next day but I started having hot flushes where the whole of my chest (front and back) and sometimes my arms felt really warm and a bit tingly. They are not particular uncomfortable more just a bit concerning that I know I still do not feel right. These have carried on for the last couple of weeks.  So now I am not sure where I have got to in my recovery. I am loads better than six months ago but I still do not feel 100%. Maybe I just tried to get back to racing to soon in my recovery. I still not to be patient and in time I will fully recover.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Steve, I am a former fell runner with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I have found this post very interesting as magnesium also seems to help me a lot, particularly the magnesium baths as this seems to be a good way to absorb it. I am still working on getting my levels up but have noticed some definite benefits already. All the best.