Wednesday, February 27, 2013

GI Distress: The Joys of Runners' Trots

I'm all for being lady-like, but be warned: I'm about to talk about some shit. Literally.

Cartoon via
If you are a runner or an active type, you have probably run into a situation that called for immediate attention: a severe case of diarrhea. (Insert Jaws music. Ba dum...)


I feel your pain - your burning, churning, very urgent pain. I didn't always have GI issues as it related to my running, but it started up in a very scary way during college. After about 4 or 5 miles into any tempo run, I would suddenly feel like my guts were in a choke hold. Being the competitor that I am, I would always run through the cramping until I put in the miles required that day.

Over time, the problem got progressively worse. Instead of having cramping and discomfort during my run only, I would end up with residual cramping for up to 4 days after a tough workout. The pain was so debilitating at times, I thought I was dying. True story. The best way that I can describe the pain at this point in my digestive journey was like my intestines had their ass kicked and were bruised for their entire length. Still - I didn't go to the doctor. Nope. I'm a tough girl and I assumed that all of this nonsense would stop on its own. Of course, I was wrong.

We needn't get into the gory details, but at one point - there was blood like something you would see in a vampire movie. It was then that I decided I was dying and yes, I better see a doctor. 

After a billion tests and almost a billion dollars in medical bills, the diagnosis was "activity induced Irritable Bowel Syndrome" - you might be familiar with it's street name, IBS. And the doctor's advice for curing my problem....wait for it....

"Have you considered not running?"

Haha - surely, you jest, Mister Doctor. No effing chance. I have always been somewhat defiant, even when it comes to my own well-being. So, I have carried on with this awful beast on my back every time I go for a run. I have learned to deal with in a way that you deal with visiting your in-laws: it is going to happen and when it does, you will cringe through it. 

I have tried a number of things to help minimize some of, but with varying degrees of success. I pay a lot of attention to the things I eat, particularly around races and hard workouts; this can be tricky, because of the whole vegetarian schtick.  I am sure to stay hydrated. I keep all of my electrolytes in balance. I pay attention to the cue's I've come to recognize from my body. But - it is still not fail-safe, and I'm always on the lookout for the nearest bush, alley, port-o-pot along my route. 

Based on several recommendations from my Twitter friends, I will be trying Salt Sticks for the first time. A lot of people claim success stories and I am willing to try anything with Boston looming. We will just agree that training for marathons has been interesting. It cannot be interesting when the race begins. There will be too many spectators to make a quick dash into the woods and too many cameras to have an accident on the course. (Nightmares about this!) 

Appropriately named.
So, fellow sufferer of the trots, rest assured that you are not alone. All those dudes you see running with a bandana on, that is emergency toilet paper.


  1. I'm in the same boat! Blood and all- although it freaks me out when that happens, I know it's exercise induced. My mom has issues with it too. Some people just have a more sensitive GI system when it comes to it. Also, I found it interesting that not once did I have the problem when I stopped the intense workouts when I was pregnant. I remember missing the hard workouts so much, but I also remember specifically thinking how glad I was that I didn't have to deal with THAT part.

    I know it's not the most natural thing ever, but have you ever tried taking an immodium? I usually take one if it's really hot or I have a hard tempo or long run. It helps tremendously. It's seems kind of counterproductive because it dehydrates a bit, but I just make sure to hydrate and electrolyte it up like crazy days and day leading up to a big run/race.

    Good luck- and I'll be dealing with it right along with you!! Hope you had a fun snow day!

    1. Ahh yes, Immodium. Every time I race! I'm glad I'm not the only one dealing with this (or I'm terribly sad that people are dealing with it) but it is comforting to have company??? The human body is a complex and strange beast.

  2. Oh dude, I feel the pain (although yours sounds worse than mine!!) It's so gross and such a bummer. I've had the old GI interfere with an awful lot of long runs, short runs, I'm getting upset saying the word *runs* UGH... Good luck to you (and me) figuring the mess out!

    1. haha - I like all of your run puns and "figuring the mess out." It certainly is a mess!

  3. Hey! I'm not exactly sure if I have the same thing, but at least the symptoms were very similar...I just recently stopped drinking coffee and that helped a lot! Maybe you could try that?

    1. Caffeine is actually a huge problem for me. I start to die without it...and I know it makes GI problems much worse, but I think I'd rather keep the coffee and keep the consequences if those are my options. Glad you're feeling better!