Since I started running about 8 years ago, I've learned a lot about how my body works. When you get injured (as I have several times) and you go for doctor's appointments and physical therapy, you learn more than you ever wanted to know about how your muscles and joints work. Add in speedwork and tempo runs and marathon training, and you learn a lot about what specific workouts are for, and how they benefit your running.
Yesterday, I learned about something else entirely, and I would rather I hadn't had the experience that prompted me to learn about it.
As I was finishing up my track workout, I started feeling kind of crappy - tired and beat up. But it was a really humid morning, and I spent the weekend eating cheeseburgers and pie, so I figured I was just having an 'off' day, and cut my workout short early. I was actually feeling pretty angry and depressed about not finishing the workout, since I am not one to quit, even when I'm tired.
But as I was jogging home from the track, I noticed that my hands and feet felt tingly and itchy. Then I felt like my lip was swelling up. Then I started to feel lightheaded and short of breath. Then the itching was getting worse, and in addition, I had an upset stomach.
I went from feeling kind of tired and worn out to suddenly feeling really, really bad. Scary bad.
I was, understandably, freaking out a bit, as I was still a good half mile from my house, and didn't have my phone with me. I considered turning around and going back to the track (I had run with some friends who all had their cars there), but I was actually closer to home at that point, so getting back to their cars would have taken even longer.
I don't know quite how I did it, but I continued to put one foot in front of the other to get myself home, cursing myself the whole time for not bringing my phone with me, and trying not to think about the possibility of not making it home, and passing out on the side of the road (something that seemed entirely possible).
Thankfully, that scenario did not happen. I managed to make it home, and immediately went upstairs and laid down and didn't get up for about an hour. The shortness of breath went away quickly, and so did the lightheaded feeling, but I was covered in hives, and itching like crazy, and my lip was still very swollen.
Scott wanted to bring me to the ER, but since I was gradually feeling better, I decided to just wait a little bit and let him at least get the kids on the bus. The swollen lip was the last thing to return to normal, but a few hours later, it was fine, and the only lingering effect was that I felt completely exhausted and drained.
Even though I was feeling fine, I knew this was not something I could just brush off, so I went in to see my primary care doctor, so I could get her take on the whole thing. She said it definitely sounded like an allergic reaction of some sort, but agreed that it was strange that it came out of nowhere. I had eaten nothing out of the ordinary, and hadn't put on any kind of lotion or anything. She did mention the possibility of it being exercise-induced, but that just sounded ridiculous to me, so I didn't think much of it at the time.
She recommended that I go to an allergist for some testing, which I'll be doing in a few weeks, and I also now have my very own epi-pen that I need to carry with me at all times (as well as Benadryl).
As I was pondering all this, and wracking my brain trying to figure out if I had ingested something, or done something that could have brought this on, I of course started googling all sorts of variations on 'allergic reactions,' and came across this description of exercise-induced anaphylaxis.
The symptoms I had yesterday morning match that description almost perfectly. It's not common, but it does happen. The thing is - it doesn't happen all the time, and it's very difficult (if not impossible) to figure out the exact conditions that trigger it.
It is often associated with eating a particular food just before you run, but yesterday I ate a banana before I ran, which is what I eat all the time before running, without any ill effects. I might be finding a new pre-run snack, though, just to be on the safe side. And I had also eaten shrimp the night before, so I'm wondering if that was somehow a factor.
I know I haven't been officially diagnosed with this (a google self-diagnosis doesn't count, does it?), but I can't help but think it's a likely candidate. I'm going to make sure I get tested for as many things as I possibly can, though, so I have all my bases covered.
Frankly, I'd much rather be allergic to some sort of food or something that I can just take steps to avoid. Because exercise is not something I can avoid. And everything I've read says that I wouldn't have to - but I do feel kind of like a ticking time bomb. This might happen again tomorrow, or it might not happen again for months, or years (or maybe even never). Under most circumstances, I love surprises, but this is not the kind of surprise I'd like to receive ever again.
So it all remains something of a mystery for now, but to play it safe, I'm not going for a run unless I have my phone and my epi-pen, and I'm going to try to run with other people as often as I can.
And in the meantime, maybe this means I can't do track workouts anymore, because I'm allergic to them? I have a doctor's note and everything!