After stumbling through a foot issue late winter/early spring (initially thought to be a stress fracture but turned out to be autoimmune “AI” related), I turned my attention to training for Ironman Whistler in late July. Throughout the training, I never felt quiet right. The day of Ironman Whistler, I had a panic attack 300 yards into the swim. I’ve never felt anything but comfortable in the water—I relish the mass starts and the washing machine swim simulations that you find in triathlons. Panic attack?!?!?! I attributed it to me doing something stupid—wearing a sleeved aero top under my wetsuit—that I had never tested in training…….whoops!
Chalking up IMWhistler up to poor planning (don’t ever do anything on race day that you haven’t tested in training-duh), I signed up for Ironman Louisville in October. I figured that I had about 10 weeks to train and I should be able to pull off a stellar race. I had August and September to string together some quality blocks of training. Or so I thought…..
Instead, throughout August and September, I was so far from my usual enthusiastic athletic self. I was apathetic about training and would procrastinate or not even do some of my workouts. I could barely get out the door to start a workout. Even worse, sometimes I would get 10 feet out the door with full kit, bike and 6 hours worth of training food only to turn back around and take a 3 hour nap. I would log tearful notes -peppered with F-bombs-after each workout about how OFF my training was. Worse, I even called and texted Kurt a few times DURING workouts (good thing that I couldn’t find the sniffling emoji) to basically tell him how much I sucked and that I couldn’t hit any intervals. My run pace times were so much slower than normal and power on the bike was so off that I actually thought my Garmin and powermeter were broken. I remember being on the phone with Garmin customer service,
troubleshooting quizzing the poor guy up and down and back and forth about the device and practically pleading with him to tell me that something was amiss on the Garmin side. Um…..it wasn’t.
In late September, I finally was diagnosed with iron-deficient anemia
Here are some of my symptoms
- I did a couple of short course races in late July and August. My times and efforts were about 20% off the mark—I thought that is was just lack of consistent training; or that I was feeling my age, or that I had way too much pie and wine around my birthday. Illogically I thought that my eating and drinking might have affected me for weeks on end
- I had an enormous amount of lethargy. The idea of doing the dishes after a meal was overwhelming on most days. Doing laundry might as well have been the same as riding 6 hours in 100 degrees with one water bottle
- Like a drug addict is to a fix, I was to napping. I would wake up in the morning and strategize as to what time I would be able to take a nap. I napped for 1-2.5 hours on most days
- I would stop every 200-400 yards on runs. Sometimes it would be to catch my breath; other times I would burst into tears. I think that I have a file from a 6 mile run with 27 stops
- I was (even more than usual) outwardly pissed if a car pulled out in front of me during my runs or bikes. I probably told more motorists to f*ck off in the last two months then I have in the last 10 years
- My libido was shot. This had me worried as I wasn’t sure if this had something to do with age or the proverbial 7 year itch or whatnot. Let’s just say that I wasn’t that into “relations”. I’m sure that Geoff was thrilled #sarcasm
- I experienced shortness of breath anytime I would ride or run up a hill or small rise
- I continually was dropped early during bike rides. Thank God most of my friends were nice enough to circle back or TRULY ride slowly if that’s what we agreed upon. Thank you Julie, Liz, Jackie, Heidi, Maureen, Jene and Hillary for that!
- I was moody, cranky and extremely unmotivated. All. OF. The. Time.
- One day at Master’s swim, I could barely keep up with the lane one slower than where I usually swim….not a total biggie until I realized that I had FINS on…..BIG FINS…..and I couldn’t keep up.
- Shortness of breath is a common denominator in people with low ferritin stores—that more than explains explains the IMWHISTLER swim debacle
Iron-deficient anemia–it felt like a combination of PMS x 50 coupled with 1st trimester pregnancy. Or something thereabout.
It took me a few weeks to figure out what was going on. I was testing out a new diet to help with my AI issues—and Kurt and I thought that it might be too low in carbs.
Turns out, it wasn’t the diet. It wasn’t until during a scheduled appointment in late September with my Rheumatologist that we figured out the problem. I was anemic. CBC and Ferritin tests revealed that my hemoglobin (red blood cell count) and ferritin (stored iron) levels were low. As in, WAAAAYYYY low.
Now before anyone starts pointing figures at my quasi-vegan diet; I need to stress that my iron-deficient anemia condition could have been caused by something gynecological or gastrointestinal-slash-autoimmune. I am exploring all avenues of healthcare in a quest to figure this out. I’ve eaten “quasi vegan” for few years and up until this year my labs have been fine.
In the meantime, I still subscribe to the Eat Many Veggies school. In addition to taking an iron supplement, I am focusing on eating more iron-rich foods than I have in the past but I always build my plates around vegetables. Lately I’ve been in to roasting red cabbage. It roasts into a softer, less odiferous product than Brussels sprouts and is pretty to look at because it’s really purple 🙂
Last I checked, red cabbage was about 25% the cost of Brussel sprouts (probably because the hipsters have yet to discover cabbage). Sesame seeds contain the most iron out of any seeds and nuts and Tahini (sesame paste) is the base for a terrific sauce I love to use over most roasted vegetables. The addition of lemon juice (vitamin C) in the tahini makes the non-heme iron more bioavailable to your body—plus it tastes great.
Pro Tip sprinkle sesame seeds on anything from eggs to salads for a welcome addition of an iron-rich crunch
Roasted Red Cabbage with Tahini-Lemon Sauce
- ½ head of Red Cabbage, cut into (roughly) ¾ inch cubes
- 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
- ½ tsp Sea Salt plus more to taste
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit
- Spread cabbage out on pan (I use either a large skillet or half sheet pan)
- Toss with oil and salt
- Roast for 25 minutes
- 1/2 Cup Tahini
- 3 Tbsp Lemon Juice
- 1-2 tsp minced Garlic (1 large clove, minced)
- 3 Tbsp Hot water plus more to thin if necessary—that will depend on the consistency of your tahini
- Sea Salt to Taste (I use about ½ tsp)
- Chopped Cilantro to Garnish
- whisk together everything but the Water and Cilantro. Adjust consistency with warm water. Drizzle on Roasted Cabbage and top with roughly chopped Cilantro
It’s been three and a half weeks since my diagnosis. I retested my iron last week and the numbers, while still not optimal, are improving. I feel SO MUCH BETTER and those symptoms that I described above are gone. I told Geoff the other day that coming out of an anemic condition is like distancing yourself from a bad relationship: you don’t know how bad it is until you are back to where you need to be.
I feel confident enough with my improvements to have put some running races on the books for this winter and I have a working triathlon schedule dancing around in my head for 2017. My advice to anyone is that if you ever are feeling tired and lethargic, request CBC and Ferritin tests STAT. I think that I went about 4 months iron deficient and knowing what I know now, I never want to go through that again.
Here’s to a 6 mile run this a.m. (with only 4 stops, but who’s counting……..)