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.