That Time When I Fainted and Freaked Everyone Out, Including Me

I don't generally use this blog as a place to post my own running updates, but feel that this particular post will be valuable for everyone to read. If you're keeping tabs on me, you probably noticed that I posted a good late-afternoon run on Friday, and then posted nothing else for the entire weekend. Not normal behavior for someone in the marathon-specific phase of training for the Boston marathon in 5 weeks. As it turns out, I let work and parenting and running conspire to stretch me way too thin, and ended up having a fainting spell while over at our friends' house for dinner. I am certain that this was a one-time thing from being just exhausted, but I wasn't ready to risk it over the weekend and I just rested instead of running the 35-40 planned weekend miles. I decided to post about it because I think this is a good lesson for everyone: Real Life Impacts Running in a Big Way.

I'm quick to tell people that I've always been a "guts" runner. I wouldn't consider myself genetically predisposed for speed, but I do have an ability to take a lot of pain and discomfort, and generally recover and adapt well. Of late, training has actually been going really well, and my confidence in running much faster marathon pace targets has been steadily increasing. That said, I made a classic blunder of assuming that running was compartmentalized to running, and that other factors weren't impacting me. But here's where I was totally wrong, when you consider everything going against me on Friday afternoon:

  1. I haven't slept for a true "full night" in about 8 months, since our daughter was born. She's been a real struggle in the sleep domain, so broken sleep in short increments is the norm.
  2. Last week was a scramble due to spring break for our son. Each day was a rush to get some miles in during my free time, which meant some extra nighttime work, further exacerbating the sleep impacts.
  3. I fueled really poorly on Friday. I was hanging out with my son all day until I ran in the afternoon, and I really wasn't paying attention to what I was eating. I was low on total calories, very low on protein, and probably dehydrated.
  4. After a good run of 90 minutes, I didn't refuel right away. For all the times that I yell at my athletes to eat a mix of protein and carbs right after a run, I just didn't plan ahead to have a snack before dinner. I should have had something ready to go in my running bag.
  5. Then I went to our friends' house and stood around chatting, again ignoring that I should have eaten something substantial and gotten rehydrated.

Long story short, we were having a good time until I started to feel lightheaded. I went to sit down inside and felt really hot, so I then went outside to get some fresh air. The next thing I knew, I was surrounded by the other adults who were frantically trying to get me to eat some energy chews and drink some soda. My wife said I was out for a good 30 seconds or more, and had I not come back to my senses when I did, they were going to call 911.

Needless to say, I am shaken. I'm a little reluctant in posting this because I know that I will get a lot of worried comments, and a lot of "slow down!" comments. I think there is some good to be discussed out of all of this, which is why I wanted to write this post. I've made a few new rules for myself as a result, which I think can benefit everyone:

  1. No matter the run, immediate re-fueling and re-hydration is essential. This was already a rule, but I ignored it on the day.
  2. Pre-run nutrition needs to be better. If you're going to run 19 miles in a day, you can't go into the afternoon run with a calorie deficit.
  3. Don't be so stubborn. Real life does impact running, and sometimes you need to slow down and realize that being tired has an impact on your body.

I'm ready to move on, and I'm feeling normal after the weekend off. As a precaution, I'm still going to go see the doctor to get blood work done, just to rule out other potential causes like anemia. Above all, I want to make sure that I can keep running in a healthy way, without scaring the pants off of my family, friends, and myself!

Comments

Submitted by eddiegotsole (not verified) on

Caleb,

Thanks for sharing this. It is definitely an important lesson for everyone to hear and absorb! Nobody is invincible and we cannot neglect ourselves as we're pushing to reach our running goals! I appreciate you being so candid about your experience and it will definitely have an impact on me going forward with my running and training!

Submitted by bob! (not verified) on

Eh, it's not like you're injured or anything. So now you know what to do/avoid. You'll be back kicking butt in no time.

Submitted by Jim Philips (not verified) on

A couple of weeks ago, I was about a mile and a half into my run when I felt a terrible urge to go. I ran back home, straining to hold it in all the way. When I got home I ran for the bathroom. As I was sitting, I felt light-headed. The next thing I knew I came to with my wife standing over me. The doctors chalked it up to "vasovagal syncope". The vagus nerve can get stimulated from certain kinds of straining. When that happens, it releases acetylcholine (the opposite of adrenaline). The blood vessels open up and the heart slows down. The blood flow isn't making it to your head. You keel over.

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