A Serious Health Wake-up Call

I love to run.  Lately, I live to run.  Bewteen working full time and being a wife & mom, running is one of the only times I have completely to myself.  I don’t run fast, but I like to run long.

In the last year I have completely 3 half marathons and my first sprint triathlon.  I have lost most of the baby weight from being pregnant with my son and down to a size 6.  All in all, I feel great.  So when it was time for my annual physical at the doctor’s office, I was almost smug about the progress I’ve made.  That is, until my doctor gave me an unexpected health wake-up call.

“You are at high risk for heart disease and possibly heart attack.”  What?!  But, but, but… I’m a runner!  According to my blood test results, I had the trifecta of bad news: High Triglycerides, Low HDL (the “good” cholestrol), and High Blood Pressure.

What are triglycerides?  I googled it.  According to WebMD, “triglycerides are the end product of digesting and breaking down fats in meals. Some triglycerides are made in the body from other energy sources such as carbohydrates.”

My directions from the Doc – Limit carbohydrate consumption, increase exercise, and start taking daily fish oil supplements.  The last two were easy, I’ll increase my mileage per week and add swimming into the mix and get some fish oil.  The first, however, proved to be challenging and a terrible learning experience.

As an overreaction to the test results, I cut out most carbohydrates from my diet except for vegetables.  I started this new diet 2 weeks before a half marathon.  The short runs were no problem.  I eliminated all gu and sports beans from my long runs.  The weekend before my half marathon, I ran 10 miles without taking any gu or gatorade.  I thought I had this all figured out.

The night before the race I had 1/2 cup of pasta and the morning I had my usual salted, soft pretzel.  I did bring a gu with me “just in case.”  I was determined to PR the half AND kick triglycerides in the butt.  Unfortunately, this half went down as the worst run ever…

I felt good the first 8 miles.  Strong.  I was running 20 secs per mile below my goal pace.  The course was hilly, but I was ready for it.  Once I got to mile 9, I took a Gu but it was too late.  I “hit the wall” between miles 10 and 11.  EVERYTHING cramped up – legs, abs, arms, everything.  I was scared and ended up walking the last 2 miles.  I was in such bad shape that I had to have my running partner basically carry me to the car after the race.

Since the half marathon, I have re-adjusted my diet.  Instead of getting rid of carbs, I spaced out my daily carb intake into small portions sprinkled throughout meals and snacks.  I have started training for another half marathon in December.

This health wake-up call has been very difficult for me to deal with.  I always thought since I’m a runner, I’m healthy and took it for granted.  I won’t know until my next blood test in a year to find out whether this new diet is helping to lower my triglycerides.  What I do know is that I need to fuel properly for my runs.  Because not only do I love to run and I live to run, but now I run to live.