Pandemic Bonk & Recovery

My last post was the beginning of my great pandemic bonk. Since then I have been more consistently sharing on Instagram about my abnormalities with my running. Some of the things I experienced were shortness of breath, spiked heart rate, having to stop and walk a lot, dread, and often feeling like it was the last three miles of a twenty mile run. This was all very frustrating but I’m slowly climbing my way out of it and want to share here because I suspect I’m not alone in this.

A little pre-pandemic background & timeline:

April 2019:
Two half marathons, one 9-minute PR followed by a 2nd fastest 13.1 one week later.
May 2019:
Starved Rock Marathon (PR) & 10 mile race (PR, 2nd AG).
June:
70.3, 2nd in AG.
July:
Ironman distance build plus 70.3 as an angel for myTeam Triumph = 8+ hours on course.
August:
Peak Ironman training and Madison Mini (13.1).
September:
Ironman WI (PR), raced a duathlon (1st AG), race a sprint tri (1st AG) while also building for a fall marathon.
October:
Raced a half marathon finishing seconds off my PR, plus peak marathon training with my highest mileage month ever.
November:
Marathon PR, continued running a week later.
December – February 2020
Continued run training with BQ attempt in mind.

I’m not typing the above out to show off or brag, but to draw a picture of how I’ve been going, going, going non-stop for a full year. I remember after my spring marathon last May I had intentions of taking some time off to recover, but I went for a bike ride two days after the marathon and had my fastest ride ever. So I went with it and continued training for what was next.

A likely cause of my recent slow-motion, spastic heart rate running is that my body finally got tired.

Three other probable causes I explored:

Allergy induced asthma. I began taking Allegra daily and tried to remember to use Flonase before activity but I’m so forgetful.

Low iron. I saw a doctor and got my blood tested. My results came back with mild anemia. Since then I’ve been taking an iron supplement and incorporating red meat into my diet. I normally avoid red meat. I’ve also gotten back to my spinach-crammed-to-the-top of the blender morning smoothie, a habit that I lost while working from home.

Social distance anxiety. Madison, WI is a very active city. We have a great system of pedestrian paths that are always busy with runners, cyclists, walkers, families, etc. Since gyms are closed, the paths are even busier, and sadly crowded. Not only the paths, but even my regular routes through neighborhoods. I live on an isthmus where my options are to stop every 20 feet for traffic lights, or go into neighborhood streets where there are more people out. Trying to run while avoiding people and experiencing spiked heart rate was not a good combination!

I take social distancing seriously and respect that it’s a responsibility for everyone. For me this means waking up early to run before the streets and paths are crowded.

I also took eight days off of running. I continued some short, easy bike rides, fat-tire bike rides, daily yoga and strength training. There is no pool access during the pandemic, otherwise I’d be swimming.

Since making those adjustments I’ve been seeing small, slow, steady improvements. It’s a lot like going through a running injury, in a way it kind of was. After the eight days of rest and two weeks of slower, easy running I finally feel like I’m ready to try some speed work next week.

I’m curious to hear from others who have experienced any of the above. What has helped? What triggers you?

It’s been a long winter/spring/pandemic and summer is canceled. I’m grateful to be able to enjoy the outdoors in any way possible.

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