Running with Lyme's Disease

Post JOGLE I had already planned to have some down time as I've learnt that the body may superficially recover quite quickly, but beneath the surface it takes far longer.  The plan was to take a couple of weeks off, do a bit of cycling and gradually build things back up for an event I have planned for October.  Well, things have not gone to plan at all.

The cycling I was doing to let the issues with my leg heal went ok, but it felt far harder than it should have done.  My heart rate was sky high and I thought it would sort itself out with a bit of time.  The leg soon recovered but my body wasn't.  A month after JOGLE and I was struggling to run more than 5km and anything much more than 10km just about finished me off.  I originally put this down due to the exertions of covering 440 miles in a week and a half, but I was concerned that I wasn't really recovering.  Something just didn't feel right at all.

Around this time a rash started to develop around my wrist at the site of where I had been bitten by a tick whilst in Scotland doing JOGLE.  It was a bit of a weird rash, very blotchy, not very uniform and not the sort of rash that is classic Lyme's Disease.  During this time, my running, if anything was getting worse - 11km where I would normally run around 3.50m/km and feeling easy to boot (c.138 bpm) was taking anything up to 4.25m/km at about 160bpm.  Any thoughts of running further than this were still out as I was normally just hanging on after about 4km into the run.

Classic Lyme's rash

My rash - at first I thought it was a sweat rash when it first appeared but when it didn't go away I started to become concerned that it was Lyme's Disease at it was at the same location as the Tick bite.

Eventually, this lethargy started to affect everyday life.  The best way of describing it is a constant feeling of living at 90%.  Not ill, but just off colour, little energy or appetite to do anything and a tiredness that usually resulted in needing a nap mid afternoon.  I decided to pay for a private Lyme's Disease test, which are notoriously unreliable as they can often return a false negative.  They are based on the body producing antibodies so normally you need to leave it at least 6 weeks to allow these antibodies to be formed.  Any earlier, the risk of a false negative increases substantially.  Well, at the 6 week point I took the test and it came back positive.

I followed this up with a call to my GP, who in fairness was open minded but I could sense the initial doubt.  In the Midlands tick bites containing Lyme's are still very rare - I read some stats that only 20 cases are diagnosed each year so I suspect some GP's manage a career without ever having encountered it.  As soon as I mentioned the blood test it was agreed to prescribe a course of Antibiotics (Doxycycline) for 3 weeks which is the standard treatment.

The bite was late May, the diagnosis for Lyme's was at the beginning of July and now it is almost September.  The treatment seems to have worked, the rash has disappeared but has left a very faint scarring of sorts.  I have tried to continue to run throughout, but on very reduced mileage and by my standard my weight has ballooned - only about 6lb higher than normal, but its the heaviest I've been since before I started to run competitively.

Bit by bit, things are improving.  I still don't feel right and I suspect I've got the classic after effects of Lyme's that causes chronic fatigue, joint soreness and general lethargy.  I'm now able to get the mileage up and my heart rate is now back to normal.  However, every session still feels harder than it should be and whilst in the recent past I might have done say 60 mins at 11% on the treadmill, I initially struggled to do more than 2 x 6 mins.  In the last week I have managed to get back to about 45min so some fitness is slowly coming but it is a slog.  I'd guess my current lack of form is 15% down to JOGLE, 50% after effects of Lyme's and 35% lack of fitness due to little running.

All of this is making me reassess - my long term back issues are still there and are unlikely to ever go away.  I don't enjoy running anywhere near as much as I've done in the past and in the last month I've turned 40.  I think my marathon days are over - or at least any aspiration to race at semi-elite level.  I've got a couple of ultra races planned, the first of which is at the beginning of October (Marathon des Sables) and then The Spine in January.  I'll then assess whether to retire at that point - I think its relative, I still plan to train but it will be for fitness and maybe focus more on challenges and the like.

In terms of the Marathon des Sables the original intention was to have a decent crack at it.  My fitness level unfortunately has meant I need to reassess.  The plan now is to just to complete it, get it out of the way and move on.  I still want to go at the best pace I'm able to, but it will be at a level far below my peak fitness.  I suspect I'll be one of the first competitors who will have done it who doesn't really want to be there, but monies have been paid and I'm now committed!  One month and counting...


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