Dave Mitchinson on Unexplained Underperformance Syndrome

Dave Mitchinson has had a very rough couple of months after being admitted to hospital and diagnosed with Unexplained Underperoformance Syndrome. No one likes talking about being ill when it simply brings the athlete down and we are very grateful to Dave for sharing his experiences. Great to hear is already on the mend and that a good season should lies ahead of him.

Over to Dave;

I haven’t written a blog for a number of months, for one reason – I’ve had nothing positive to write about, and when I’m struggling with my running I tend to withdraw and focus on trying to get things right, I sometimes find it hard to be overly involved with the sport when not able to compete myself. I think this is either due to being a little selfish, or it’s a protective mechanism, either way I’ve always felt the same when struggling with injury/illness.

During the summer of 2013 I was training and racing in preparation for the Yorkshire Marathon in October. I felt I was training hard, and had focused my training on long, harder sustained running, so when my results over shorter distances weren’t exactly what I wanted (although I was lucky enough to scrape a few wins and pick up an England vest for the home nations 10km mountain race) I tried to reassure myself that all would be well when marathon day arrived.

This was not to be!! On the day of the Yorkshire Marathon I felt good, I’d had a relatively trouble free build up and was confident of running 2.24, the plan was this should be ‘comfortable’ (is a marathon ever comfortable???) and I would then go into my build up for a spring marathon with the aim of running faster. The race itself was a great event, well organised for a debut event and a course which had the potential to be quick, although the pre race description of a flat course was maybe an optimistic description, and I would suggest ‘rolling’ would be more appropriate. I went through half way in exactly 72 mins, but rather then feeling comfortable I was FLAT OUT, and had been dropped several times by the group running at this pace, and although way to early in a marathon to be trying hard, I felt I had little option but to put it all on the line and hope to turn a metaphorical corner. Unfortunately this wasn’t to be and after slowing from half way to 16 miles I essentially turned off. If the option to stop had been there I would probably have taken it, but the easiest way to the finish was to keep moving. So I jogged home, finishing a dejected  8th place in 2.34.28. The slowest marathon I’ve completed whilst racing.

After the race I had a few days of light jogging and rest and then flew to Spain for a week’s holiday with my wife and daughter. The sunny weather and time off work certainly started to recharge the batteries, however on returning home things quickly deteriorated and a chest and ear infection set in. I often find my immune system low after a hard race and tried not to worry, but after a few days I realised I was starting to feel really rough. The only thing I could compare it too was when I had septicaemia in 2006, so off I went to the Doctors and informed him I thought that I had a chest infection. He listened to my chest and declared I was healthy! I couldn’t believe my ears. So home I went and back into bed.  The next morning, after a night rolling around feeling very sorry for myself I went to AandE where a chest X ray showed a severe chest infection and bloods tests showed the early stages of blood poisoning and I also had an ear infection to complete the hat trick! An admission followed by intravenous antibiotics and a hefty dose of oral antibiotics followed, and NO RUNNING!

Unexplained Underpeformance Syndrome

Once out of hospital I took some advice and decided to try and find out why my body seemingly couldn’t cope with what should have been a simple infection or two. I was lucky, via BUPA to see Dr John Rogers, a specialist sport doctor with a particular speciality in Unexplained Underperformance syndrome (previously known as overtraining syndrome). Dr Rogers felt my symptoms suggested Unexplained Underperformance Syndrome and conducted a raft of tests, and referred me to a clinical study in St Marie’s in London where I was lucky enough to receive help from Nathan Lewis and Charlie Pedlar of www.orreco.com . I had an excellent evaluation of my diet as well of physiological testing on the day. I found the diet input fascinating. Having kept a food diary for a week prior to attending the clinic I was sure I would receive criticism for the food I was eating. However rather than focusing on what I was eating, the emphasis was on what was missing from my diet. As an endurance athlete I’ve always been aware of the amount of carbs my body uses, but my dietery analysis showed I was lacking in protein intake, and also not getting enough fruit and veg for an athlete, both essential for maintaining a healthy immune system. I’ve made huge efforts to correct this over recent weeks and believe I’m already showing improvements, and have been able to slowly increase the volume and intensity of my training.

On Saturday 8 Feb I even turned out for my club Newham and Essex beagles for the very wet and muddy Met league final. I finished a respectable 16th, for a man who hasn’t done a session since prior to the marathon in October. I plan to now introduce a session to my weekly programme and will hopefully come on in leaps and bounds. I plan to race the National Cross Country for Newham in two weeks, but my real focus is to be fit and ready to hit the roads in March. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder and I’d have to agree, I’m chomping at the bit to take part in harder training and get racing!! Hopefully 2014 will be a fit and healthy year for me with my new diet and sensible approach to training and recovery! I’m lucky and grateful to have retained my sponsors and I hope I can reward their faith in me with some positive results over the coming months!

Dave Mitchinson x-country

Follow Dave’s recovery and progress this season on Twitter @DaveMitchinson

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