Searching for a Silver Lining in a Bronchitis Cloud

Jordan Kinley, living proof that one can run well despite a recent bout with illness

My buddy Todd believes I do it to myself.  I think something bad’s going to happen to me, so it does.  Can it really be that simple?

2 weeks ago, while running as well I have in years,  despite the fact that I was already signed up for the Shamrock Marathon on March 21, I tried to find a last-minute marathon to enter. I wanted to run while I felt strong because history tells me that something will go wrong with my training, regardless of whether or not it’s some self-fulfilling prophecy.  I wanted to launch a preemptive strike – get a race in before something bad had a chance to derail me.  

I would have jumped into the Myrtle Beach marathon if it wasn’t already full.  (Granted, I would have been highly upset had I managed to sign up since officials ended up cancelling the race due to inclement weather.)  I tried to talk Laura into flying to Austin, Texas with me so I could run the Austin marathon, but she couldn’t take any time off from work and the price tag would have been a bit too steep for an impromptu trip.  The point is, I tried to beat any unforeseen bad thing to the punch.
But ‘the bad thing’ landed the first blow.  I woke up last Sunday feeling a little lethargic, a little worn down, not necessarily sick, just not well.  Blah.  But I had a race, the Salisbury Winter Flight 8K, to run.  Nothing really to do but suck it up and go run.

I felt a bit worse on the ride up.  And even worse minutes before the race.  Just before the start, when my fellow Charlotte Running Club member Jay Holder high-fived me and said something to the effect of ‘Let’s do this for the Charlotte Running Club!’, I responded, ‘You do it for the both of us.  I’m not feeling it today.’ 

I hurt from the outset – I knew things weren’t right.  My breathing was excessively heavy and I labored mightily.    It was one of those ‘just try to hang on’ races throughout.

Afterwards, I felt horrible and just wanted to get home so I could climb into bed.  I managed to beat last year’s time by 2 seconds, but I should have easily beaten it by 2 minutes, based on how I’d been running of late.  In contrast, Laura bested her previous year’s time by some 11 minutes.

As soon as Laura had cooled down and drank a little water, I asked her if we could leave, and if she’d drive.  I began shivering with chills before we had pulled out of the parking lot.

Nearly one week, one doctor’s visit, one bronchitis diagnosis, and one Z-pack later, I feel almost well. I had my first full night’s sleep in a week last night.  There’s still a noticeable ‘rattle’ (rasp/wheeze?  not sure how to describe) sound emanating from my lungs, and they hurt, but at least I’m not coughing every 5 seconds like I was earlier in the week.

So now the question becomes how much fitness have I lost?  The sickness has left me feeling drained and I haven’t run a step in nearly a week.  Can I fully recover in 3 weeks, by March 21, in time for the race?

I’m searching for the silver lining in this brochitis cloud.

Other Charlotte runners have managed to race well despite bouts with significant illness.  For example, Jordan Kinley ran a 2:29 marathon a mere 2 weeks after having the swine flu.  So why shouldn’t I be able to run a 3:20 marathon 3 weeks after having bronchitis?

And maybe this week off has allowed all little potential injuries, like my nagging right foot pain, to completely heal.  Maybe my legs are well rested and ready to perform at their best.

Maybe this illness will lower my race-day expectations so that I’ll be completely relaxed.  Maybe I’ll run a better, anxiety-free, race.

One can only hope.


One Response to “Searching for a Silver Lining in a Bronchitis Cloud”

  1. Jeff Gaudette Says:

    Hi Allen,

    My name is Jeff Gaudette and I am Jordan’s coach. I hope I can give you a little advice for the upcoming weeks as you prepare for the Marathon. Qualifying for Boston is such a huge goal and it sucks to see it derialed by bronchitis.

    My advice would be to run very easy for the next three or four days. You want to make sure you’re recovered completely before doing anything hard. Otherwise, you’ll just prolong the “weak” feeling that you have as your body tries to fight the last bugs.

    On Tuesday or Wednesday of next week, a day after you’ve felt 100% for the whole day, you should try 5 x explosive hill sprints:

    The reason? Aerobically, you won’t have lost too much fitness. However, your greatest decreases in running fitness will be neuromuscular function and muscle strength. Just doing a few of these will help expedite the rebuilding process.

    I would then have 5 days of intensive training. It is hard for me to suggest particular workouts because I have no idea what you’ve been doing up until this point. But I would suggest 3 workouts (1 intense track session, 1 tempo run, and a medium long run at a steady state with some 3min pick-ups during the course of the run.

    After the intense 5 days start your taper and let yourself recover. The intense few days won’t get you injured, since it’s only 5 days, and you’ll have plenty of recovery time given the taper.

    Why this works? Basically, you haven’t lost too much fitness aerobically, but you need to get your legs back under you and the aerobic threshold firing again. Unfortunately, you don’t have a lot of time so it needs to be an intense 5 days. Luckily, if you give yourself a few days to get 100%, you’ll be right on the cusp of being back to 100% fitness by the race date. I’ve had a lot of athletes have little things come up before a race. I’ve found that often, they can get back to race fitness in 2 or 3 weeks depending on their level of fitness prior to getting hurt or sick.

    Hopefully you appreciate the advice. If you think I’m a quack, understandable and no offense taken. Either way, good luck on March 21st!

    Jeff Gaudette

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