Archive | 3:19 pm

My Running Nemesis

29 Feb

Monday night, I almost died.

Well, at least that’s what it felt like.

I got home from work tired (because I had stayed up too late Sunday night) and didn’t feel like going on a run outside in the brisk air. So I talked Travis into going on a walk with me and the dogs, and I’d go to the Rec after dinner.

Bad idea. Remind me to never do that again, will ya?

My mistake was eating an antelope burger (they’re actually very tasty) and about half a pound of brussel sprouts for dinner.

Remember how I discovered less than a month ago that I couldn’t eat a salad before a run? Apparently that same thing is true for brussel sprouts.

Only this time, the brussel sprouts really tried to finish me off. I was running around the track at a really easy pace (11:30ish/mile) and I started feeling a little sick. Assuming that the ketchup on my burger had given me acid reflux (which it has been known to do, and of course I forgot to eat Tums before running), I was just going to muscle through. I was on my 17th lap (1.6 miles) when in the span of ten seconds, all of a sudden I couldn’t breathe.

I got off the track and sat on a bench, and I was actually really scared that something bad was happening. My chest felt like an elephant was sitting on it, like I just couldn’t inhale enough oxygen to expand my lungs. My face was tingly and hot, and felt like it had swollen up to 5 times its normal size (but I felt it with my hand and it seemed normal). This was exactly what had happened during my run after eating the salad, only 10 times worse. That time, the symptoms had slowly subsided on their own, so I felt okay to just wait it out – even though it was incredibly painful!

After about 5 minutes, I started to feel better. I sat there for another 5 minutes and then granny-walked to get my stuff and leave. My stomach hurt as I was driving home and immediately after I walked in the door, I laid down on the couch.

I felt ok for about 10 minutes and then my hips and legs started aching – like how your body feels when you have the flu. Then the chills set in – I had two blankets covering me and I was still shivering. Finally, I got the worst headache I’ve ever had – stabbing pain in my forehead. I asked Travis to make me some tea and bring me some Tylenol, which he did willingly. But it was hard to drink the tea because I had to sit up, which made my headache worse, and I had to take my hands out from under the blanket, which made me colder.

After at least 10 more minutes of agony, Travis suggested a warm washcloth for my forehead. I didn’t think it would help, but what could it hurt?

That was the ticket. My headache and chills didn’t go away immediately but by the third re-warming of the washcloth, my headache was bearable and I wasn’t shaking anymore. By the fourth, I was sleeping. Wonderful.

I don’t plan to go to the doctor because 1) I’ve had this happen before. 2) I woke up yesterday morning feeling fine. 3) I don’t believe in doctors.

No but seriously, I went to the ER once for chest pains. It was the same kind of scenario – my chest felt tight, I couldn’t breathe deeply, etc. They diagnosed me with acid reflux, gave me some meds, and sent me on my way. Apparently, the combination of chocolate, coffee and ibuprofen caused acid reflux to such an extent that the acid inflamed the lining between my lungs and ribs, causing friction which feels like chest pain. It took several days for the chest pain to go away. I had to literally sleep sitting up because it hurt too bad to lay down.

Then another time, I gorged myself on fried food at a friend’s house (hello sweet potato fries and arepas!) and woke in the middle of the night convinced I had to throw up. After racing to the toilet and sitting there for 10 minutes with nothing happening, I realized that it was probably acid reflux. Sure enough. I propped myself against the wall and was fine in the morning. Acid reflux is a weird condition.

Since my brush with death (I’m being melodramatic if you can’t tell), I’ve done a little research on acid reflux and discovered that there are more offending foods than I thought. Here’s the short list of Food to Not Eat Before You Go on a Run if You Have Acid Reflux from WebMD:

  • Meats. Ground beef, marbled sirloin, chicken nugget-style, and chicken/buffalo wings.
  • Fats, Oils & Sweets. Chocolate, regular corn and potato chips, high-fat butter cookies, brownies, doughnuts, creamy and oily salad dressings, fried or fatty food in general.
  • Fruits, Vegetables & Juice. Orange juice, lemon, lemonade, grapefruit juice, cranberry juice, tomato, mashed potatoes, French fries, raw onion, potato salad.
  • Other Beverages. Liquor, wine, coffee, and tea.
  • Grains. Macaroni and cheese, spaghetti with marinara sauce.
  • Dairy. Sour cream, milk shake, ice cream, regular cottage cheese.

Um, doesn’t that include about everything? Except spoonfuls of peanut butter I guess. My most-often offender is tomatoes or tomato-based anything.

I also discovered this about heartburn (a symptom of acid reflux): “Heartburn usually is described as a burning pain in the middle of the chest. It may start high in the abdomen or may extend up into the neck. In some patients, however, the pain may be sharp or pressure-like, rather than burning. Such pain can mimic heart pain (angina).” {source}

So I’m convinced that my chest pains were caused by acid reflux. I do have a doctor appointment scheduled in March and will ask about this then (ok, Mom?).

Not one to be deterred, yesterday I was back to running. A 3.5 mile tempo run with Travis. I was admittedly a little nervous but the run was good. Legs felt strong. Lungs felt strong.

My takeaways from this whole situation are:

1. Stop eating vegetables before a run.

2. Go on a run right when I get home from work, instead of eating dinner first.

3. Avoid running at the Rec. There are bad vibes in there.

4. Take Tums before every run, even when I don’t think I need them.

I’m a slow learner, folks.

Have you had any brushes with death while running?