The past two weeks have been an up-and-down experience, much like an ultramarathon. The disappointment of my DNF at the Worlds End 100K has faded away, thankfully. But that freedom from mild mental anguish was replaced by physical anguish in the form of a case of shingles.
Yep, I had (still have?) shingles. It started late in the day last Saturday. I played golf that morning and saw poison ivy while searching for a golf ball. I try to avoid poison ivy, but I’ve never had it, so I’m a little more casual in its presence than some people. Late that afternoon, I developed an itchy rash above the bridge of my nose. I assumed I had gotten poison ivy on my hand and touched my face while playing golf, so I didn’t think it would be more than an annoyance for a few days.
The next day, the rash was a little more itchy, but hadn’t spread. Another round of golf and an afternoon run went fine. But late that evening, I noticed the rash starting to spread across the right side of my forehead and some irritation developed on my right eyelid. I consulted Dr. Google and realized I had all the telltale symptoms of shingles.
I did a quick search to see if I could get into an urgent care, but they were all closed for the night at that point. I woke up early Monday morning, but the rash had only gotten worse, so I knew a call to the doctor was needed. To make things worse, this was the day of our biggest fundraiser for athletics, the Peter A. Carlesimo Golf Tournament and Award Dinner. Not only is it a fun day, but it’s critically important to our department. And I had to miss it because my the right side of my forehead was covered in blisters and my head was throbbing.
Talk about a double whammy.
My doctor confirmed shingles before she even closed the door behind her when she entered the exam room. She prescribed an anti-viral to keep the shingles from spreading and sent me to my eye doctor. He also prescribed a pill and eye drops to keep the virus from getting into my eye.
After a rough four days, I finally started feeling a bit better on Friday. I’m still fighting the occasional headache and some fatigue, but I’m doing a lot better than early in the week when I couldn’t sleep and didn’t feel like doing much other than laying on the couch. I got back on my feet Saturday with a light five-mile run that felt harder than it should have. Hopefully in a couple days I’ll be back to running regularly, but that feels like it’s far from guaranteed at the moment.
At the end of last week, I was starting to feel the itch to run more and get in a few good weeks of training for the Never Summer 100K on July 31. A friend had reminded me that everyone in Colorado raves about how beautiful the course is, which helped stoke the fire to run this race. And I found this video of runners reaching the top of North Diamond Peak at the end of the toughest climb of the race. I can’t wait to crest the top of that peak.
Before this shingles episode, I spent some time reading about mental toughness and listening to some podcasts that touched on the topic, as well. One of the interesting things I heard was a quote from the great Ann Trason – “For every minute you spend training your body, spend two training your mind.”
While I think that might be a bit difficult to take literally – I train 8-10 hours per week during peak training, so another 16-20 hours of mental training just doesn’t fit into the week – I think Trason’s quote is indicative of how important the mental side is in ultrarunning. There will be low points in a race, often multiple, and it takes mental strength and fortitude to get through them. For most of us, that doesn’t come naturally, so training the mind is just as critical as training the body.
I think that’s critical for not just physical pursuits, but for life. We’ve all gone through a span of about 15 months that was the most stressful of our lives for most of us. That will have lingering effects that we may not be aware of. I’m certain it played a role in my decision to drop out of the race two weeks ago. Maybe there’s nothing I could’ve done about that, but I’m taking steps to help fortify myself against a repeat of that experience. Self-care practices like meditation, a deeper focus on sleep and spending more time doing things I love have helped already. I urge you to do the same if you’re not feeling your best.
What I’m Watching
If you have HBO Max, check out Mare of Easttown. Thank me after you finish the seven-episode first season.
Also, John Oliver never disappoints …