Saturday, October 13, 2012

Bronchitis and Running

Last Saturday, I had a 14 mile run that went fantastic. The cool fall air was the perfect temperature to keep me from freezing out or overheating. As I finished on the jogging trail by house and slowed to a walk, my chest tightened a bit, and a deep, phlegmy cough resonated out of my lungs. Uh oh.
The following day, I sat up in bed and felt tired. My daughter had slept well, but woke several times in the night, so I naturally attributed my sluggishness to a lack of sleep. I dragged on throughout the day, and when I crashed later that night, I said a few prayers thanking the good Lord for Columbus Day (I'm a banker, so I get that day off!).

Another day, another day of feeling tired. By Tuesday, my cough had become extremely common. And by Wednesday I was in the doctors office, being diagnosed with viral bronchitis. Most likely caused by having a cold, running despite said cold, and breathing in dry, cool air that helped that cold cause inflammation in my lungs. Yea!

From WebMD
My appointment with the doctor was interesting for a few reasons. One of my frustrations with the office my wife and I use is that you spend more time in the waiting room than actually seeing your doctor. They rush in, ask you a few questions - "OK, it must be this" - and they run out of the room. Armed with this prior knowledge, I knew I was going to have to rapid fire a few symptoms and explain, with emphasis:

"I am running a marathon in 10 days, can you help me get healthy enough to run it?"

This stopped my doctor in her tracks. She (yes, girls, you can be a doctor!!! Or anything else you want to be for that matter) had just finished telling me that the best treatment is to be smart and let it run its course. It is viral, after all. But my question prompted a much different response. She stopped dead in her tracks, looked at me, and related a story about her niece, who is a regular in Hopkinton, MA (starting line of the Boston Marathon). "Oh, I bet you wouldn't like not running for 3 or 4 weeks. I'm going to prescribe something for you."

Enter prednisone.

US National Library of Medicine - Prednisone

This stuff was awesome for the first day. If I would have been able to spend any time on it, I could have rearragned me entire office, maybe the entire bank branch I work in, and solved the federal budget. THe stuff really does feel like the pill from "Limitless". It is that "good".

I went home and wondered if I should have driven. Prednisone does have a nice kick, but I actually didn't like it. Heart felt like it was in the hurry up offense, my brain clicked off a few trillion thoughts and ideas per second, and I was wired.

Luckily, that was only three days on a higher dosage. Since this stuff is so strong, a taper (I know, right! I am in my marathon taper, I am tapering off of hard drugs! Who knew!) method is used to ween you off the stuff. So luckily I am in the taper zone, and the dosage and getting lower. So the side effects aren't nearly as strong.

Prednisone is a steroid, but not a performance enhancing one. Like the thought didn't cross my mind. But after hours of reading message boards, I never really found anyone who said anything but "it made me feel like I could run through a brick wall." This is true. But no one had any stories of race day performance while taking the drug. I'm actually a little worried that it might have the opoosite effect.

But it is better to make it to the starting line healthy than not at all, so I am following doctors orders. She did tell me to "dial it back to no more than 6 miles" so I only ran 7 today. OK, maybe not following exactly.

I'm also on albuterol, which I've been prescribed twice in the last three years. I hate the stuff, and I hate inhalers, because invincible 30 something weekend warriors don't use them. But I'll be on that for a few weeks.

I'll report back on how everything goes. Here is a brief timeline of my illness in case YOU are sick and wondering if you could be ready in time:

19 days out - a little cough and few other symptoms (think GI) that tell me I am almost sick
17 days out - Nasty head cold, have to rely on energy drinks to finish the afternoon and the evenings run
13 days out - Had a schedule "off/easy day" and chose the off day. I knew I was sick right there
11 days out - Miss work, go to doctor - get hard drugs
9 days out - Finally get to run again. Still have a chest cold, but can take a deep breath with ease. Could not do that even one day ago (have been on prednisone for two full days, this was day three)
8 days out (today, Saturday) - still a chest cough, but feel pretty good. 7 mile run had no complications for the evening, but the terrible bottle of wine I opened (think "notes of burnt toast") didn't help

I'll report back on how this shakes out, but I have hope. You can't lose that much fitness in less than a week, and my workouts since I could run have all been good. Hate to say it, but glad I ran through some illness the previous week.

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