It was early July when Canadian triathlete Gillian Clayton fell ill, unaware that anything was wrong. It was shaping up as a typical training day before Clayton, the Ironman Canada winner in 2012, set out for a routine 90- km bike ride only to realize afterward, the illness developing inside her was pneumonia.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that affects millions of people worldwide each year, causing mild to severe illness in people of all ages. Common signs of pneumonia can include coughing, fever and trouble breathing. In Canada, only 16.7 per cent of adults with chronic medical conditions are immunized against Streptococcus pneumonia. It was distressing to learn that only a small percentage of Canadians are immunized. As a result there is a dramatic increase in the number of people who get the disease and about 1,500 Canadian adults die from it every year.
Clayton is a wife and mother of two young boys and also a Powered by Chocolate Milk ambassador as a sponsored athlete. In a phone interview, she explains how it all unfolded and spoke of her road to recovery which allowed her to run the Victoria Marathon in October.
“I went for a 90 km bike ride that day,” Clayton began, “I felt great and I could have done more. When I woke up the next morning, I felt (like) I was run over by a truck.” She thought back and remembered having chest pain 15 minutes into a training run a few days earlier. The next thing she knew, “I felt so sick and I was on medication, and I had a Bronchoscopy done to check my lungs,” Clayton said. After her diagnosis at hospital, Clayton was bedridden for two weeks, during which time she had to take a time out from all of her training. Being sick had set her back about 10 weeks of training that was supposed to prepare her for the Victoria Marathon, where she had hoped to perform at an elite level.
After her extended rest, “I was so happy to get out and not worry how fast I was going. I didn’t look at my watch – no goals.” Clayton knew she was on the road to recovery once she was able to run for one hour.
I asked her how important a role did her excellent fitness play in speeding up her recovery time. “I think it probably helped. I was fit because I could do 10km right away,” Clayton said. Instead of waiting until 2018 to compete in the Victoria Marathon, she completed it this year on just six weeks of training.
Clayton has no idea how she caught pneumonia but she suggests the following:
If you feel like something could be seriously wrong with your health, take a few days off and see a doctor.
Pull back from your training. You won’t lose any conditioning in one week leading up to an event.
The weather wasn’t a factor last year when it snowed. The weather isn’t a problem. I like to cross country ski – it is good cardio and low impact.
From July to September I wasn’t running because of illness when the air quality was poor.
Clayton’s advice for staying active is about enjoying each season and having the right gear. “We live in Canada,” she laughed. Clayton is looking forward to competing in the Victoria Marathon next year at the elite level.
If you are suffering from an illness or injury, listen to your body and follow your doctor’s advice. Once you resume training, be sure to refuel, repair, and rehydrate as part of your recovery and regular workout regime.