I started this blog post on September 10th but hesitated to publish it before our trip to Utah. At the time, I was still feeling rundown from COVID. And with a lot of pre-race nerves, emotions, thoughts and feelings, I didn't want to put anything into the universe that I wasn't feeling my normal self. Looking back, I am really surprised that Karel and myself were able to perform like we did despite overcoming COVID just a few weeks from the race. And I feel we were a bit overzealous asking our body to perform (again) just a week later at the Xterra event in Snow Basin. Although we were able to complete two epic events in the span of 7-days, the dry air, altitude, residual covid symptoms and overall fatigue and soreness really caught up to us. We were both absolutely smashed for a few days after returning home from Utah. I have really struggled since my last two races - both physically and mentally.
After three weeks, I am finally feeling more like myself. Karel recovered a little faster that I did which isn't surprising since my COVID symptoms lingered well into race week (even though I was no longer contagious). For two weeks after returning home from Utah, I struggled with a sporadic cough, headache, extreme sleepiness and fatigue, left lung fatigue (my left lung just felt weird) and lingering soreness. Although I continued to lightly exercise, I really had to listen to my body.
I felt like this was the right time to dive into our COVID symptoms and what we were dealing with in the two weeks before the Ironman 70.3 World Championship.
For a timeline of our COVID experience, here's a detailed recap.......
On Tuesday August 24th, Karel felt a bit off during his morning swim and run. In the late afternoon, as we biked to the group ride at Donaldson, he told me that if he got dropped from the ride we would just meet up at the end. Surprisingly, he had a good ride. We rode almost 3.5 hours that afternoon/evening and overall Karel felt fine but not great.
On Wednesday morning (25th), Karel went out for a 90-min run workout. He was only able to do an hour. He struggled to run close to 8 min/miles. He knew something was off in his body.
On Thursday (26th), Karel felt anxious, emotional and tightness in his chest. He couldn't find the motivation to go to the pool so he "swam" for 30-minutes in our above-ground-pool with the tether. After an 11am bike fit session, he went mountain biking in the late afternoon with hopes that it would make him feel better. He came home exhausted.
Having just completed the Belgium Waffle Ride on Saturday the 21st, Karel thought that he was just worn out from that ride - and add in recent hot and humid temps, summer allergies and just being busy.
On Friday 27th, Karel felt sick. He had body aches (similar to the flu) and he had very little energy. He took his temperature frequently throughout the day and never had a fever - it stayed around 97 degrees F. His Oura ring told him that his heart rate was a bit higher than normal. For most of the day, Karel slept and stayed in bed. He still had an appetite but the hard part was getting the energy to get out of bed. Karel did not exercise today.
On Saturday 28th, Karel took another full day off from exercise. He still had body aches but had a little more energy to move around the house, clean and cook a few delicious Czech recipes (I was out bike-run training with our friend Alvi). Even though Karel didn't like the feeling of not doing any exercise for two days, he said he wouldn't have be able to exercise, even if he tried. He had no energy.
On Sunday 29th, Karel started to feel a little better, although he still had some body aches and fatigue he was feeling much better. In the late morning, as I went for my long run, he went for a very easy spin on the swamp rabbit trail for around an hour. He said it felt ok, but not great - the fresh air felt good.
On Monday 30th, Karel said he felt better. He went mountain biking for around 90-minutes. Although he said he felt considerably better and still without a fever, cough or any other symptoms, he could tell that he still wasn't 100% as his body was still fatigued.
On Tuesday the 31st, he felt much better (looking back on the 30th, he felt like he probably should not have mountain biked as he was still really tired) and by September 1st (Wednesday), Karel felt like he could do a real workout and felt 99% back to full health.
During this time, I was having strong workouts. Karel slept in the spare bedroom to ensure that I could get a good night of sleep. Although my immune system is pretty strong and I don't get sick, I was doing a lot of training and I feel my immune system was a bit compromised - thus putting me at risk for whatever Karel was experiencing.
On Tuesday afternoon (31st), we went for a bike ride (Karel stayed on my wheel) and I didn't feel like I had much strength in my legs for the intervals. I contributed it to the past few weeks of training - especially the past weekend which included some really hard run workouts. Plus, it rained during our ride. But since the rain stopped when we arrived home, I decided to go for a run. I felt OK for the run - not terrible, not fantastic. I felt "normal" tired relative to my training volume/intensity.
I took my temperature and I didn't have a fever. I had my taste/smell and I had a good appetite. A few hours after our workout, I started to feel tired. Kinda like the flu but not really. More like the tiredness after an Ironman.
On Wednesday September 1st, I went to bed early and woke up feeling flu-like symptoms in my body. I didn't have a fever but my body felt achy - like it was fighting off something. I rested all day, kept up with a lot of fluids, prepared several meals rich in antioxidants and tried to sleep as much as I could. Near the end of Wednesday, I started to feel stuffy and congested.
On Thursday (September 2nd), I felt a little better in the morning and went for a swim w/ Karel at the aquatic center. As a precaution, I wore a mask at all times, except while I was swimming. It felt good to clear my head while swimming but the swim didn't feel great. I shared a lane with Karel (even though all 10 lanes were pretty empty). I was cold and could never warm up. The body aches started again when I got home. I could feel my body working to fight off whatever it was that was inside my body. Later in the day, I took Campy for a walk. I started to feel a bit better. I contemplated going for a run in the afternoon but it was hot outside so I waited until the evening. But when it got closer to that time, Karel encouraged me to rest and not to run. I took his advice and listened to my body. I took a short nap in the afternoon and went to bed early. I tried to get as much sleep as possible.
On Friday morning (September 3rd), I felt a bit better in the morning. I went to the aquatic center again w/ Karel but kept the workout easy. I continued to wear a mask before/after the swim and the aquatic center was the only place that I went "indoors" (they have garage-type doors open around the pool which makes it feel somewhat outside). And the pool is never crowded (10-lanes, there were only a few of us in the pool, including me and Karel). I was still cold in the water, but the body aches were not as noticeable. Still no fever. Unlike Karel, who had some night sweats during his sickness (but no fever), I never experienced sweating. With hopes of being able to exercise over the weekend, I rested all day on Friday. Near the evening, I was feeling a lot better so Karel and I went for an easy bike ride on the trail. I came back feeling better than when I left. My congestion was worse during the day - I had a runny nose, wet cough and felt a lot of pressure around my nose. I got a lot of relief when I was exercising - my nose didn't run and I didn't cough. I never have any sinus issues (Karel does) so this was all new to me and it wasn't comfortable - except when I exercised.
I had a good night of sleep on Friday and that was the last night (day three) of taking Nyquil/Dayquil to help me with my symptoms.
On Saturday (September 4th), I had no more body aches so I went out for a happy ride on my tri bike without any intervals or structure. I ended up riding for ~2.5 hours and did a short run off the bike. The humidity was low this day and I felt like I couldn't catch my breath. I was coughing and I had to stop a few times. It got better as the run went on and after I finished, I felt like I hadn't done anything - which was a good sign. But on Saturday evening, as I was preparing my dinner, I noticed that I couldn't smell the onions that I was chopping. I began lifting up food items to my nose to see if I could smell them and I couldn't. I told Karel that I couldn't smell and we both knew that was a good sign that I/we had COVID.
On Sunday (September 5th), I went for another ride and run and while it felt even better than on Saturday, the body aches came back.
On Monday (September 6th), I went for a run and my legs were tired. Running felt very hard but the humidity felt really good for my sinuses.
On Tuesday (September 7th), I started to feel somewhat back to normal overall but just very stuffy and a lot of pressure in my sinuses. I rode my bike in the morning and went for a "swim" in our backyard above ground pool with the tether.
On Wednesday (September 8th), I was able to finally do somewhat of a bike workout, but the run felt really hard off the bike. I managed 2.5 miles but it was tough for me.
After Karel got sick followed by my body aches/fatigue (on the 1st), Karel and I decided we should get COVID tested. The earliest opening for a PCR-test was on Friday the 3rd. Knowing that the rapid tests are very unreliable and not always accurate, we wanted to make sure we had the proper diagnosis. I had never taken a COVID test before but the process was very straightforward at the drive thru of Walgreens. I took my test (swab up the nose) and then 30-minutes later, Karel went and took his test.
We didn't receive the results until Sunday afternoon (two days later). When Karel took the test, he had been symptom free (and without a fever) for several days and it had been about 8 days since his symptoms started (Covid tests can come back positive even when you are no longer contagious).
Just three days before our flight left for St. George, it had been ten days since my symptoms started and I had been fever free and not on any fever-reducing medicine (and no other symptoms except sinus congestion and loss of taste/smell). According to the CDC, I was no longer contagious. I still kept my distance, didn't socialize and swam with Kristen in her neighborhood pool instead of the aquatic center (she also got tested because she wasn't feel well before me but she came back negative). Those that we were around during our pre-Covid diagnosis got tested and thankfully, everyone came back negative.
We are fully vaccinated and we take this virus very seriously. Karel's dad passed away from Covid (the vaccine was not available in Czech when he passed away) and losing his dad unexpectedly has been extremely hard for Karel. At this point, I assume that everyone knows someone who has passed away from COVID. The reality is that we are in a global pandemic and while some activities are riskier than others, a lot is still not fully understood about COVID-19 transmission. Therefore, we need to stop shaming others who become ill with COVID. Anyone who has caught the virus should not feel guilt or shame with having the disease. I consider us two very healthy individuals who tested positive with Covid and we both had moderate symptoms. This should serve as a good reminder that this virus is a threat that needs to be taken seriously. It's important to remember that diseases don't discriminate - only people do. Karel caught the virus, passed it along to me, we both tested positive and got sick. Please continue to protect yourself and other people in your family and in your community.
It’s important for each one of us to have grace and empathy during this pandemic. If someone tells you that you may have inadvertently been exposed, thank them for telling you. Let them know you appreciate their honesty, bravery, and desire to watch out for others during this difficult time. Then, review the CDC guidance for your next steps. Blaming others, ignoring guidelines and being angry will not help any of us get through this unprecedented pandemic. To keep ourselves and others safe, it's important to not contribute to COVID shame and stigma.