Where to begin? Ironically, the most relevant time is pretty much right where I left off 10 months ago. The decision to race Stockholm last year was a pivotal moment for me, though I didn't know it at the time.
A few days before the race I caught a cold and ended up racing whilst under the weather. Because of this and the cold temperature of the water in the harbour I didn't do the course recce, or even warm up before the race. The only time I hit the water was the 750m in the race. My cold didn't seem to affect me too much and I ended up in a 3 way sprint for 2nd, 3rd and 4th. I ended up fourth with a complete flop of a sprint. I needed a good result in Stockholm to boost my chances of making it onto the World Series overall podium. Mission accomplished! Or so I thought. Unbeknownst to me, the grand final in my home country and nearly the entire next season had just been compromised.
Edmonton was a disaster. I was throwing up in the days before the race and during the race itself. In the coming weeks I felt stomach sick, emotional and just off. I raced a little race in Las Vegas and felt so awful that even though I qualified, I almost didn't come back for finals! I felt toxic and it was as if I was trying to race with a foreign body. I've never felt more pain in a race in my life but I couldn't really describe it.
After a few more weeks of not feeling right, good friend and mentor, Emma Snowsill suggested I get tested for parasites. Sure enough, I indeed had a parasite! I thought this explained everything and once I took the medication I felt great. For a little while. Then slowly my symptoms returned. But not bad enough to really panic and my retests were coming back negative. So I soldiered on.
I flew to Australia to begin training for the 2015 season feeling pretty out of shape! I felt puffy and tired and had a really hard time with any effort in the pool. My legs would go almost numb with lactic. I just chalked it up to being out of shape. A few weeks later I got really stomach sick and my belly looked like I was pregnant! I thought for sure the parasite had returned but test results said it hadn't. The doctor over there thought we had enough reason to go on antibiotics anyway. After that I felt good for a few more weeks.
It's funny what you adapt to. Looking back I was dealing with things that were definitely not normal but I was just brushing them off. It wasn't until it was time to race that it became more obvious that something was really wrong. Whenever I went really hard for an extended period (which i don't often do in my training protocol) I had this feeling like my blood was "toxic sludge." I got teased a lot for this term but that's exactly what it felt like! I'd had this painful toxic feeling in my limbs, my legs would go numb and then about 10 minutes later I'd have system shut down. When it happened in Abu Dhabi I thought I was just because I had accidentally consumed eggs that were scrambled in my noodles the night before the race. I'm allergic to eggs so this made sense to me. I came home and was feeling fit and ready for Auckland. When it happened again in Auckland I knew something bigger had to be going on.
|Sometimes you gotta embrace the rainstorm!|
I came home and packed my bags for a "couple days" in LA at Red Bull North American HQ where they were going to facilitate some doctors appointments to really get to the bottom of it. 9 weeks later after seeing an infectious disease specialist, a gastroenterologist, an internist, a biochemist and physiologists we got a diagnosis!
During my time there my symptoms were worsening. At maximal efforts my hands and feet would go bright white from constriction. There was so little blood in my extremities that they could hardly even get a drop of blood out of my finger for a lactate test! My oxygen saturation in my muscles would dip low and I would sweat so much that it looked like I was under a shower, even just spinning at 100 watts or jogging 6 minute km's. It got to the point where my hands and feet would be completely numb for the entire session. Even 3-4 hour rides or just laying in bed at night. Despite all this, my tests kept coming back negative for everything we tested for.
Until we tested for the waste products left behind by bacteria. The doctors were pretty sure it was bacterial but they just couldn't catch it in my gut. Some bacteria are super sensitive to O2 and die instantly when exposed to the air. From my scope they could tell something was going on by the inflammation and something irregular in the lining of my gut that looked like a bacterial infection called Whipple's disease. It turns out it wasn't Whipple's but another bacterial infection. I had levels of waste products left behind by this bacteria that were 8x higher than the 95th percentile! So that explained a lot! In all likelihood I contracted both the parasite and the bacterial infection in Stockholm where before the race it poured rain and all the city runoff went straight into our swim course. Quite a few of us became really ill the day after the race. Both the parasite and bacteria I had are commonly contracted by sewage. Lovely.
It turns out this infection was affecting my peripheral nervous system which is why my symptoms were all over the map. This one is also known for leaving behind a lot of waste/toxins. So "Toxic sludge" in my blood was actually semi accurate!! I went on a heavy/extended course of antibiotics and was feeling amazing! I never realized how bad a I felt until I felt good again. Unfortunately we are still figuring out the proper dosage and I've taken a step back from where I was and I'm back on antibiotics. But it's still a relief to know what it is that is going on!
I had so much fun in California and met so many great people and new friends. Not only that, but I realized the training there is really great and will be back for more at some point soon!
|Very excited to get back to my forest!|
Thanks everyone for all the support and apologies for such poor communication! I wanted to make sure I had a diagnosis before I formally updated everyone. Who knew it would take 10 months before I figured out what was wrong!
I recently heard from the ITU that they have changed the swim venue in Stockholm to protect our athletes which is great news!
I hope everyone is having a wonderful summer and getting outside! Here's a few photo's from my time in Cali :)
|Ride or Die! My girlfriends Jill and Courtney came down to visit me! This is what they gave us for a rental car..|
|Cali Sunsets :)|
|Loved the canyon running in Malibu and Santa Monica|
|I got to meet many amazing athletes in the Red Bull HQ training centre|
|The only way to get around in LA ;)|
|So many beauties at this company. So much love!!|