Saturday, December 22, 2012

Serious Stuff

As the year winds down my health continues to improve ever so slowly. I'm still needing to take things really easy, but I have been able to get out and live a mostly normal life much more consistently than I was able to for most of the Autumn. Even skied for almost 90 minutes yesterday. By far the most ambitious physical thing I've done in months. 

I'm back in Juneau for a couple weeks for the holidays and the timing couldn't be better. For the first time in months I'm able to get out and be a little bit active pretty much everyday. There's so much that I always want to get out and do when I'm here in Juneau, and it's really nice to actually have the physical health to do some of these things. Had I been here a couple months ago I think I would have driven myself nuts not being able to get outside in the mountains each day. In Boulder I'm right in the fast pace of the city and it's much easier to detach oneself from the surrounding nature. In most cases this is a drawback, but it's been one thing that has certainly made it easier for me to be more at peace with how easy I've needed to take things these past 4 months. Now though, I am emotionally craving more nature. Being here in Juneau with perfect sunny and cold weather couldn't have occurred at a better time.

With each passing week in which more and more tests come back "normal", and as I continue to feel slowly better and better with more rest, I come closer to definitively settling on a diagnosis of overtraining syndrome. At this point I feel almost certain that my health issues these past 4 months have been a result of pushing my body too hard for too long. It's only the more acute symptoms that go back 4 months, in reality this is something that has been affecting me for at least 20 months. For most of this time I have felt a little "off", but I kept fooling myself into thinking that I could just take a couple weeks off here and there and things would improve. Typically they would improve for a few weeks, but then I was back to feeling the same sluggishness once again. My recovery was taking twice or three times as long as usual, and my ability to perform at a high level was steadily dropping. It's so easy now to look back on all of this and realize how much I was over doing it. At the time though, I was able to find just enough energy to get out and do what I love to do: run for a really long time in the mountains. In the end my intense enjoyment of running in the mountains was so high that I just kept pushing through so that I could be out doing what I love.

I'm excited now to move forward with the knowledge and experience that I have now. I have no way of knowing how effectively I'll be able to recover from this, and if I'll ever be able to run anywhere near the level that I once did. I do however know that I'll always run a lot smarter than I ever did before. This alone will likely be enough to make me even faster than ever before. It's just going to take a lot of patience for the next several months and beyond.

I hate to preach to anyone, and certainly everyone's experiences are very unique from mine, but if you are like I once was and you feel like overtraining syndrome is somewhat of a myth and only something that happens to people who run 150+ miles a week or race 20+ times a year, I encourage you to take this as a serious possibility for anyone. Especially if you feel like your performance and recovery ability seems to be inexplicably diminishing. It's a tough thing because it's quite hard to definitively diagnosis, but there are some pretty serious markers which should be setting off alarms in your mind. Had I known everything I know now I feel entirely certain that this is something I could have nipped in the bud a year or two ago.

I guess we all live and learn, and come out the back end a lot wiser than we went in the front end. I know I've learned more from this than anything else in running.


simplifique said...

Good news man.
Big huges from brazil.

garobbins said...

It's funny how long it can take to come to terms with something you're living through on a daily basis, when on the outside and in hindsight, it all seemed so obvious.

I wish you nothing but the best with your recovery Geoff, your full until you are once again are the man to beat.

My only advice is this: I have had a few friends go down with over training syndrome and their full recovery has taken much, much longer than they ever could have imagined. It wasn't weeks to months as much as it was over a year into a year and a half.

As you've mentioned you've been fighting this for there better part of two years. Try not to let your mind get ahead of your body. There is a long road laid out ahead of you but it has to feel empowering to finally know what you are dealing with.

All the best,

rustyboy said...

Well-writ, Geoff. I've been (silently) following your progress, and - as a middle of the pack ultra-dude - sensed the frustration you must have been feeling, as I've been there myself.

I know this is sacrilege to say in the presence of other ultra runners, but I think we all live in denial of this reality, and the enablers are plentiful: Those tried and true sayings of, "You'll break through", "it's just a bad patch", in the wrong situation can be incredibly dangerous. Good on ya for recognizing and taking us through your journey! Rest up!

Monica Ochs said...

I am so sorry you are fighting this. I can totally relate. I am not sure what labs you have had but I was (am) having symptoms of poor recovery, poor performance, brain fog, weight gain, sleepyness, etc. I went to Seattle Performance Medicine and had extensive testing which revealed wacked up cortisol, leptin, testosterone, and low blood sugar, low heart rate, and low bp. Dr. Cooper not only said this was typical of "overtraining syndrome" but I also have post prandial hypoglycemia so whenever I eat my blood sugar actually goes down. My muscles were needing sugar and not getting it. When you said this can happen to anyone you were correct. I, by no means am an elite runner but I have been running many miles and racing frequently over the past 7 years. My body finally said ENOUGH! It is driving me crazy to not be able to run (or do anything that raises my heart rate too high) but I know that this too shall pass. When I get through this I will feel stronger and healthier and same goes for you. Keep taking care of yourself and I am sure you will be back out on the trails soon... even faster (is that possible?) than before! Best, Monica Ochs

Burt said...

Hope your recovery continues. The mysteries of the human body are difficult to unravel.

I experienced a rapid, inexplicable decline in my running performance about 10 years ago. Nothing that shows up in ordinary life, just no ability to train beyond 7 - 9 miles here and there after 2 decades of training and racing hard. I was 33 at the time of the de line. My MD's conclude it is FAMS - Fatigued Athlete Myopathic Syndrome:

Noakes' Lab in South Africa was doing some work in this area in the early 2000's.

All the best on your recovery

Burt said...

Hope your recovery continues. The mysteries of the human body are difficult to unravel.

I experienced a rapid, inexplicable decline in my running performance about 10 years ago. Nothing that shows up in ordinary life, just no ability to train beyond 7 - 9 miles here and there after 2 decades of training and racing hard. I was 33 at the time of the de line. My MD's conclude it is FAMS - Fatigued Athlete Myopathic Syndrome:

Noakes' Lab in South Africa was doing some work in this area in the early 2000's.

All the best on your recovery

Sara Montgomery said...

Great to hear you are starting to feel better and able to get out in nature more. It's good of you to share your experience so openly, as many people will benefit from the hard lessons you are learning. I think usually a structural injury will give ultrarunners a recovery period they wouldn't willingly take otherwise. You seem to have been fortunate to have not had injury issues, but it made the recovery harder for you to get perhaps. Also, quite an amazing stretch of racing success and training enjoyment...pretty hard to not go with that while you were on a roll.
You're going in the right direction now so hopefully the good rapidly starts overtaking the bad. Have a great holiday.

eric said...

happy holidays mang.

hope the recovery keeps on going in the right direction.

Derrick said...

Really great news to that you're starting to feel better and getting out and enjoying nature more. Nothing like some good winter conditions to help for sure.

Sounds like you're being very cautious, though will be hard to once you start rolling again, but re-reading some of these posts in the coming months might be a good reminder.

All the best...and happy holidays!

Greg said...

Glad to hear you are feeling a bit better. Food for thought, I once read some where (Jack Daniels I think) that altitude training is a gamble for most. A third of the people improve, a third of the people stay the same, and a third of the people get worse. Maybe you fall in the latter third and living in Boulder contributed to your over training syndrome.
Good luck, I'm wishing you a healthy 2013.

bakasvag said...

Happy holidays and merry cristmas to you.
You must go all the way step by step and i hope the new year you will find the path which will drive you to the light!!!

phil said...

Great to hear that you are feeling stronger. I'm sure you know a lot more about this than I do but its always worth remembering that good nutrition is the key.
Take care.

Run Home Pam said...

Thanks for sharing this journey with us, Geoff. I'm guessing this is a much bigger issue than we know, especially in the ultrarunning community. Your story serves as a wake up call to many of us. Best of health and balance in the new year.

tite said...

Geoff come to ITALY!

tite said...

Geoff come to ITALY!

Brett said...

That pretentious egomaniac Cloud appears to have been on to something.

pasi.koskinen said...

Thanks for sharing Your thoughts.

20 years ago after rough chemotheraphy my blood levels and whole body was totally wipe out.

Now after over 50000 K of running I can only say we are on the blade all the time when we are talking overtraining. It is very long process to understand one´s limits.

I wish you wisdom to find trail back to high level of our passion - ultrarunning.

I think You always come back stronger and wiser - why not now too ?

Target oriented running is not I e-mail You long time ago...

Let the force be with You !

Steve Pero said...

Good job recognizing what your problem is...and as you have already found out, a HR monitor is your friend.
Best of luck in 2013!

Wyatt Hornsby said...

Look out, ultrarunning world. Geoff Roes is on the comeback trail!

Geoff, I'm so glad to hear that your health continues to improve. On Saturday I ran with Team CRUD down in Colorado Springs and one of the guys (who I won't name on here) was telling me he had overtraining sydrome a few years ago and his symptoms sounded exactly like what you've described on your blog. He got over it and went on to do some amazing things.


Peter Minde said...


I've read about your health travails for awhile and thought "overtraining," but I didn't want to be a back seat driver. As other have said here, take the long view and give yourself time to get completely healthy. Looking forward to seeing you back at 100%.