Being anemic is weird. I mean, I’ve spent plenty of time over the last eight years not running because of one injury or another, so you’d think I’d be totally familiar with this whole “sitting around the house” thing. But, the problem is, I totally can run. Except when I can’t.
Running really isn’t the issue at all. I can run any ol’ time I want to. I can also swim or bike or lift weights or dance or any other sort of exercise my heart desires. As long as I don’t go crazy and do it (whatever it is) for more than about 20 minutes. Thirty minutes max. Except for that time that I ran five miles (which obviously took me way more than 30 minutes) and felt great! That one time. As opposed to yesterday when I ran five miles and felt great until after my shower when I laid down to pet the cat and all of a sudden it was almost two hours later. And then spent the rest of the day feeling like all of my limbs were full of lead. I still managed to go grocery shopping and take Little Boy for a haircut and make dinner, but that was everything I had in the tank. The rest of the day I was on the couch.
The thing that sucks (welcome to my Pity Party, by the way, sorry you didn’t really get the chance to RSVP “no”) is that I have no idea that I’m doing too much until I’ve already done too much. Like yesterday’s run. I felt great the whole time I was running! No trouble breathing and my legs were super happy to be out in the world. I made it home and thought I was going to be fine. Ate breakfast. Took a shower. All good! Walked into the bedroom and saw the cat on the bed, so I laid down next to her and… snoozeville. I didn’t even see that nap coming, sneaky devil!
I’m still capable of being active. In general. Like, exercise doesn’t hurt or anything. And, honestly, that’s the strange part. I’m totally used to the self-limiting pain of being injured. The sharp pang or the dull ache that tells you that it’s time to quit. But with anemia, I feel pretty much normal right up until the thought of getting up to make a sandwich is so overwhelmingly exhausting that I burst into tears. Sweet UltraIronHubs has had to make me a LOT of sandwiches lately.
I’m trying to be patient, but I think you know how that’s working out for me. I have a client who is a doctor, and she very kindly explained to me that there is no quick fix for anemia. (Yes, I’m going to put a disclaimer on this part of the post: I am not a doctor and it is incredibly likely that I misunderstood some or all of what I am about to tell you about anemia. Please don’t take my word as medical advice. Or possibly even factual information.)
We were working out and I was telling her about my very low hemoglobin and iron and I mentioned that I was going to take iron supplements and planned to take two weeks off from training and then assess how I felt before getting back to my regularly scheduled marathon training. To her credit, she didn’t actually say, “Wow, Pahla, you’re a fucking moron,” but her look sort of did. Apparently it takes months to recover from anemia. The life cycle of a red blood cell is about 120 days when everything is working normally, but when your iron is low, production slows. In my particular case, I spent a lot of time this past spring slaughtering innocent RBCs with all that ultra training I was doing and my body didn’t really have the chance to keep up production. Iron got low, iron storage got low and hemoglobin got low and now they’re all trying desperately to catch up. She used the analogy of building with LEGOs, but for the life of me, I kept picturing Lucy at the candy factory.
So. I’m taking it easy. Sitting on my ass. Reading an actual book for the first time in waaaaaay too long. Watching some TV. Hanging out. Eating red meat, even though I don’t like it at all, but apparently it’s “good for me.” Whatever.
I’m still running, of course, and filming workouts for my YouTube channel, and working, and being a mom taxi, and all that other stuff I do every day. I’m just not “going long” for the time being. Through trial and error, it feels like three miles is just about my don’t-need-a-nap running threshold, so mostly I’m running three-milers. Except when I run five. Just to see what happens. Yes, I am an actual moron.