Today I got the confirmation from coach, doctor and travel agent that I will be heading back to Europe with Paula, Recent San Fran Pan American Cup winner, Matt Sharpe, and for the first time to Europe, Alex! We leave tomorrow. Needless to say the last two weeks have been quite the gongshow. I came home from Coteau du Lac feeling quite lousy. I think more then anything it was the pulling the all nighter at the hospital (sleeping in emerge is not so easy), and then getting home late the next night, and then the jet lag that did me in. Well I guess the disastrous race too.. But by the end of the week I had a caught a little cold that our group seemed to be sharing around. I then proceeded to pass it on to Alex only a few days before her race, so that was too bad.. but she still did really well! In summary: that week was quite the fail for me.
I'm really fortunate (and so thankful) to have access to physiologists and doctors and nutritionists who already know me, so they heroically threw together a massive amount of tests and meetings to try and get to the bottom of my past collapses in time for our Europe departure date. Because of all the testing, and driving all around town for testing, and my team abandoning me to go race ;), my training was rather pathetic this week as well. On top of it all, my stress levels seem to have gone through the roof- so I can't sleep anymore, so even though I've been training with way less intensity and volume then I'm used to, I've been feeling really tired and crappy.. and therefore this week was a somewhat of a fail also. I am going to pretend that this was just a 2 week mid-season rest. Kind of a lame break.. but hopefully now I'll be ready to get back to it. I agree with Paula though... ready to escape to France now!
At first I was so impressed by the Edmonton tri-fan's understanding of Paula's smart decision not to race. I knew they would support her choice because as fans they would want her to be the best she can be, on the WCS circuit.. at the Olympics..so I was happy to see that everyone was very proud of her for being smart despite the pressure to race. Butttt theeenn came the Edmonton Journal (front page) article about Paula having to get an MRI on such short notice. I do understand their points of view.. buuutt I guiltily have to admit that If people are going to be hard on Paula for getting in for an MRI on such short notice then there would likely be riots if I go into detail about the number of tests I was able to squeeze in in the last two weeks. Lets just say the blood clinic ladies know me by name now, and that I better be very healthy into old age because I've used up my fair share of tax dollars.
I was really hoping all the testing I did would come up with something substantial. Preferably fixable. But I guess if it were an easy fix I would have it figured it out by now (we Are going on 6 years of this happening), so makes sense that this will be a challenge for me. Through-out the process I did manage to learn some new things. The cardiologist thinks that my collapses are due to nervous system instability. It is not uncommon in young women which makes sense since I know a number of people who have collapsed in races before. My problem is that it seems to happen to me a lot. I guess during races, when adrenaline and some dehydration come into play, the parasympathetic nervous system ('rest & digest' system for those who haven't taken bio in a while) can overcompensate for the increasing symapthetic nervous system activity (fight or flight) leading to total shutdown. I hadn't been entirely convinced that this was my issue, but he described it as that feeling you get when you stub your toe REALLY badly, or whack your thumb with a hammer and you get that sinky/nauseaus awful feeling that is worse than the pain itself and you just want to yell or dance around, or yell and dance around to make it go away. Well that's the perfect description of the feeling of extreme discomfort I feel after I've collapsed, only it doesn't go away like it does when you stub your toe, it just keeps going on and on and on until I borderline lose consciousness again. It's nice to hear some explanation that makes sense to me, but not an easy fix- I HAVE NO CONTROL OVER MY STUPID BETRAYING NERVOUS SYSTEM! It seems like the only thing to prevent it is to stay well hydrated which can be an issue during races. I was treated for severe dehydration at the hospital so makes sense that hydration was an issue: The problem is WHY was I so dehydrated.. I was well hydrated going into the race, I drank well on the bike (e-load), and as mcuh as I could on the run, and yet the doctors were saying my kidney's were beginning to fail by the time I reached the hospital.
We followed up all the heart tests and blood tests with a bike/run test at 30 degrees. Unfortunately I only lasted 45 minutes into it because I was so dizzy and had reached the critical point for core temp (where you're not allowed to continue the test). I had to stop running to get my blood pressure taken every few minutes which obviously would have dropped my BP even further, but even still it was reading as low as 135/30 during the run which sounds pretty disastrously low to me. My hydration had been good. I am a very low-salt sweater. So my blood pressure issues were deemed to be not entirely related to hydration but likely to some other (at the moment) unknown mechanism.. I think maybe some other physiologists are going to look into it.. but for the time being it has been decided that nothing is wrong with me and that it was a poorly run test. sigh.
I have been quite frustrated by all the dead ends. I keep having to think back to Madrid when John had to go run and get paper bags in the middle of the market, the evening after my 5km TT, because I was still so nauseous from the morning's blood pressure episode that I just about puked in between the artist stands, And the good 5-10 minutes in the ambulance when I thought I was going to die in Montreal, to remind myself: nope this is not all in your head.
I always assumed that when I'm running and have to run with my eyes closed because I'm dizzy- that that was a normal part of getting tired. But I don't think it is. This is a problem, and problems can be fixed.
I used to just let people convince me that I'm fine. All the tests came up fine (enough..). I would let them tell me again that it was a matter of hydrating better before races, or eating more. But I am too scared of collapsing again to be complacent. I have to do more than just hydrate better. I've already tried that. I've done the salt loading, and the sports drinks. No, I'm going to have to hydrate way way way better. I think I'm going to start by healing my digestive system. I know I have some issues there, and poor gut health can lead to some serious problems (Alex and Austin have sent me like 50billion scientific articles/journals on the subject that I am supposed to be reading right now...). Maybe I have such terrible absorption that I'm not holding onto any sodium, so while I appear hydrated the reality is that I'm not retaining any water.. I mean there are a lot of other possibilities as well that we just didn't search deep enough for, hidden Thyroid issues etc.. But for now I'm going to be extra attentive of my tummy issues, I'm going to eat even more super healthy, and by my nutritionists recommendation I'm going to start taking in 4x the recommended daily allowance of sodium to see if that makes a difference. And hope for the best.. eek!
Sometimes it seems unfair that some athletes can get through an Olympic distance race without touching a bottle or gel, and I can't even make it through 5 k's.. but we all have our setbacks. And I'm not exactly on my deathbed here, so I am thankful that it is not something serious. But still maybe they'll find something else... in the mean time Ima go eat some olives or miso soup or something.. and get back to real training!