I should have finished month two of my half marathon training program in full force, running faster and stronger. Instead I hit my breaking point both mentally and physically. Here is my month two training recap.
Week 5: Flying. With my new Nike Flyknit Lunar 1+ running shoes, I felt like I was flying. I was hitting my speed pace during interval and tempo runs despite my lower back pain. My shin splints weren’t bothering me with my compression shocks and new shoes. I even ran an 8:31 pace for the Shamrock Run which I was ecstatic. It was the fastest pace I had ever run an official race and I was looking forward to bringing this new found speed to the mini marathon.
Week 6: Treadmill friend or foe? I went into week 6 still on my runner’s high from the Shamrock Run. I was building my milage and running faster. Also I was choosing CrossFit WODs that didn’t put as much pressure on my lower back. Although I despise running on a treadmill, I feel that it truly does help me run faster during interval and tempo runs because I know if I set it to a certain speed/pace, it forces my legs to run that fast or else I’ll fall right off. Versus outside, my legs and mind set the pace, so there is no fear of falling off the road if I run slower. Now I need to take that speed on the treadmill and do it outside on the road. So maybe the treadmill isn’t so bad after all…
Week 7: Pain. Despite being warm for a few days, it was cold again and I had an 8 mile run. Which I did on the treadmill. My longest run ever on a treadmill and the only thing that got me through it was thought that spring was hopefully around the corner and that it would be my last treadmill run of the season. I finished the week strong with a 9 mile run outside on the Monon. It was sunny and warm and I felt completely stretched out and ready to take on my run since I had just finished an hour of hot yoga beforehand. My pace was on point and I felt strong until the last mile when my left rib started hurting when I would breathe in. I thought it was just a lingering cramp. I finished the week with a Hero WOD at CrossFit. I fought through it as best as my body would allow. But my left rib was in excruciating pain, my back was sore from previous CrossFit WODs, and my legs were tired from my long runs. My body was screaming for me to stop. Thinking my back and rib pain was related to muscle strain, I took muscle relaxers for a few days without relief.
Week 8: Rest. I needed to listen to my body and it was telling me to rest. When I had visited the chiropractor again the week before he said it sounded like I was compressing something in my lower back. Terrified that I had a herniated disc or broken vertebrae, I made an appointment with my PCP for x-rays and blood work. My PCP immediately ruled out a herniated disc and muscle strain. The answer would be in the x-rays. He did mention that my rib pain was probably due to torn cartilage between my two lower ribs, which would heal on its own. He recommended blood work to test for inflammation throughout my body. This was the longest, most boring week of my life. No running, no yoga, and definitely no CrossFit. I did however brush up on my wifey skills and attempted to make dinner every night. But that didn’t ease my mind. I want to workout. I want to workout. I want to be healthy. I want to workout. My mind was racing with everything that could be wrong with my body. My anxiety level was on high alert and I couldn’t sleep. I even found myself in a bad mood because I couldn’t do the activities that I enjoy doing. I cried a few times, frustrated that my body was keeping me from achieving my goals. After a week off, I felt my motivation slipping and days felt like weeks. I swear I could already see my body getting softer. Months of progress down the drain. I paced around our apartment waiting for my test results. And weirdly I missed being able to mark off a workout on my training plan after I completed it. I was literally driving myself crazy. Finally, that Saturday I decided enough was enough and I went to hot yoga to quiet my mind.
Finally that following Monday, the answer came. My PCP’s office called and my x-rays and lab results were in. My rib looked ok – they didn’t see any torn cartilage or broken ribs….whew! So probably just muscle strain. However, by looking at my x-rays of my lower back I was diagnosed with early onset arthritis. Seriously? I’m 29 and have arthritis? No wonder I felt like an eighty year old woman because my back looked like one! Then something clicked. I recalled from my very first chiropractic visit last year that I mentioned to the chiropractor that I had some mild lower back pain which only lasted a few minutes at the very end of hot yoga when lying in corpse pose. He did say that my lower spine looked a little degenerated for my age. But he didn’t seem worried about it so neither was I. So apparently I’ve had early onset arthritis for awhile now but didn’t realize it. But why is this happening?
Here is where the blood work comes in. I was negative for rheumatoid factor (thank goodness), but I was positive for ANA, antinuclear antibodies, antibodies that attack my body’s own tissues. According to Mayo Clinic online, “In most cases, a positive ANA test indicates that your immune system has launched a misdirected attack on your own tissue — in other words, an autoimmune reaction. But some people have positive ANA tests even when they’re healthy. Your doctor may order an ANA test if he or she suspects you have an autoimmune disease such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and scleroderma. Many rheumatic diseases have similar signs and symptoms — joint pain, fatigue and fever. While an ANA test can’t confirm a specific diagnosis, it can rule out some possible diseases. And if the ANA test is positive, your blood can be tested for the presence of particular antinuclear antibodies, some of which are specific to certain diseases.” On a good note, according to Rheumatology.org “By itself, a positive ANA test does not indicate the presence of an autoimmune disease or the need of therapy. The prevalence of ANAs in healthy individuals is about 3-15%. The production of these autoantibodies is strongly age-dependent, and increases to 10-37% in healthy persons over the age of 65. Even healthy people with viral infections can have a positive ANA, albeit for a short time. Some medications can cause a positive ANA.” My mom even found a study online that women with silicone breast implants have a higher rate of testing positive for ANA due to a false positive.
Sounds scary and confusing right? Especially when I’m in the medical field and I’ve heard of all the complications of +ANA and then I start self diagnosing myself. The nurse told me not to worry and that many people with +ANA live healthy lives and that I was being put on a steroid dose pack for a week and to follow-up with an appointment in ten days. No specific restrictions for now. The doctor in me was asking “Did they check for lupus, did they check for scleroderma, sjogrens and other disorders related to +ANA? Do I need to see a rheumatologist? Is this related to the kidney disease (MPGN) I had when I was younger? Am I a false positive from my breast implants?” Immediately I cried…again, but this time to my parents. Geez why is health and fitness making me so emotional these days? Pull yourself together Melissa.
Ironically, that evening I read a small article in Runner’s World of a person that used running to help him get through his multiple sclerosis. And I thought to myself, this person has a debilitating and life threatening disease and still runs. Yet I have no restrictions, could be a false positive ANA, could be a healthy ANA, and I’m crying over something that I don’t even know or have all the answers to. I’m sure there are a lot of people running half marathons and marathons, competing in triathlons and CrossFit that are ANA positive. And who knows….maybe I’m one of those healthy people (here’s hoping) that tests ANA positive or a false positive. I just need to be smarter about my body, listen to my body, rest when it needs rest, and persevere regardless of the outcome.