Training After Covid-19 Recovery: A Limited Series

I Am Not An Exception.

(Spoiler Alert: Covid-19 is not a hoax, it’s not the flu, and it’s not a cold. And even if it doesn’t kill you, there’s a pretty good chance that if you get it, your life will be mentionably disrupted in some way.)

I sincerely hope this is a very, very limited blog series about my return to “normal” training after experiencing Covid-19. I would love for my body to bounce back with my hefty daily dose of water, vitamins, and (mostly) healthy food. So far, it’s not that easy.

Let’s start by getting some things out of the way.

I don’t know where I got “it”. My husband and kids never did. I am a remote worker, a mask-wearer, a hand-washer, and practice social distancing with limited amounts of calculated risk. I have a hunch that my current Invisalign treatment which requires me to put my hands in my mouth more often than usual may have increased my odds, but really–who the hell knows. Iowa blew up with cases in the last couple of months, so it’s just “around”. We’re in the middle of a very complicated pandemic.

When I got my positive result I had no symptoms. The Fam had been tested as a precaution when returning from a road trip. Testing in Iowa is plentiful and makes it easy; for that I am grateful. My husband and two daughters tested negative. I had no symptoms, and with all the evidence I presumed I was negative, although my results came in a little later than theirs.

On a Saturday evening I received the positive result. I isolated in the bedroom as quickly as possible. I didn’t hug my kids or kiss my husband goodnight. I was scared. What if I gave it to all of my loved ones and we just didn’t know it yet? My oldest had her wisdom teeth removed the day before. I couldn’t take care of her now. Is everyone going to eat cereal and frozen pizza for two weeks or longer? Will the house even have walls when this is over? (Ok, I might have been feeling a little dramatic.) I cried. A lot.

Isolated in my second floor bedroom, I got window visits from the Fam and a few friends. My nickname became “Rapunzel”. No one ever showed up with a Boom Box, and for that I am still bitter. I am incredibly thankful that the first week of August in Iowa was unusually cool and allowed me to keep the windows open for many days. I felt more connected.

During the first two days of isolation, I had no noticeable symptoms. I was doing pushups and bedroom yoga. Looking back, I was more tired than I should have been. The fatigue really started kicking in on Monday evening- two days after my result, five days after my test. Next came the brain fog. Saying that makes me feel like Joe Banks (know it or look it up). It was very real though. I attempted to continue working from my bedroom, but by Wednesday of that week I was so exhausted and confused, I had to call it off and take a leave of absence. *Note of privilege: I can take leave from work for Covid. The doctor recommended I rest, regardless of whether or not I felt like it to prevent aggravating the progression. Seemed logical.

Not once did I have a fever. I didn’t lose my sense of taste or smell. I barely coughed. I recorded two sneezes in my diary. This is not a textbook illness. What I did experience was breathtaking fatigue, brain fog, aching legs, paralyzing headaches, and wild emotional swings. So many tears. I also found myself needing to eat with crazy regularity or I got the shakes and absolutely everything got worse. Then, the chest pains came.

Once I got a negative test result, 12 days had passed from my positive test. I spent all my energy disinfecting every area I had touched, re-entered the rest of my home, and gave the biggest hugs ever. Still lacking energy, adrenaline carried me through that day. I started taking long walks, which was the extent of my “training”. The chest pains never fully went away, and my left arm started going numb frequently. As I write this, my left hand is STILL partially numb.

Two weeks after my negative test, I had my annual physical. Everything including blood work was exceptional, but because of the chest pains, Doc decided to do a quick EKG. It was abnormal. In fact, in the strictest sense, the reading reported that I was having an active heart attack while sitting in his office. I wasn’t. I really wasn’t. But considering every EKG I’ve had in the past was completely normal, I was off to a Cardiologist for more tests. This stuff is weird.

And wow, I had some tests. Heart monitor, stress test, heart ultrasound, CT coronary calcium score…everything was the glowing picture of health (yay!). You guys, after how amazing they tell me my heart is, I really think I should be qualifying for Kona pretty much any day now.

Yet here I sit. Two years ago at this time I was reveling in my first IRONMAN finish and today I’m exhausted after a casual bike ride, sleeping 9-10 hours every night, napping any time I can, with a hand that won’t wake up. I’ve learned when I do too much, the chest pains come back with a vengeance. Most people would go to the ER. I already know this will not help me. I don’t know what is wrong other than…THIS IS COVID-19. If I had a heart attack and died, the record would not show cause of death as “COVID-19”. I’m NOT dying, but please pause to think about this if you feel compelled to argue that the number of COVID death cases is exaggerated.

I have been cleared by all my medical professionals to train to my tolerance level with the strict caution of my Coach, who knows me better than I know myself athletically. He holds me back, annoying as it may be.

Let me be clear–I’m here for the long haul, but not everyone is as fortunate as I am. I am not an anomaly this time, as many of my health experiences seem to show. I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m strong and healthy. This is how a strong and healthy person can experience COVID-19. I gave blood yesterday and hope to find out I have antibdodies. The jury is out.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, I’ll write more about my athletic recovery going forward.