MS Overload: poor planning leads to an MS attack

Sometimes I am my own worst enemy. I like to believe that I am just like everyone else out there and I that it’s ok to behave as though I don’t have Multiple Sclerosis. This past weekend I was reminded that ignoring the ways of my disease is not a smart idea.

On February 12 the English Bay Swim Club held their annual Love to Swim swim meet. It is one of my favorites. The meet is always well attended, well organized and the English Bay community volunteers whole heartedly support the swimmers in their events. Plus, the meet helps raise funds for A Loving Spoonful; a non-profit devoted to providing nutritious meals to people with HIV/AIDS.

I had entered the 400 free, 200 fly, 100 fly and 400 IM – four fairly challenging events. My 400 free went OK with a 3 second improvement in my time from last year. After that it was all downhill.

My 200 fly felt horrible. I swam next to a 21 year-young man. After 3 lengths I wanted out. I had no motivation and no energy, a lethal combination when swimming fly. I completed the race however my time was 5 seconds slower than last year. I was heartbroken. I tried to shake it off and prepare for my next event, the 100 fly.

This too was a disappointing swim. For the last 12 meters of the race I felt pain in my lower legs and by the time I hit the wall my feet were numb. I had irritated my MS. This was the first time this had happened in a race.

I made my way to a deck chair and sat for a while, thinking about what had happened and what to do next. I still had 1 event left, the 400IM, the first 4 lengths of which is fly. I was frightened. I had no idea what was going on with my body and what would happen if I carried on. I had to pull out. I felt defeated and crushed.

Now for the good news! I took a really hard look of why things went so horribly wrong. Here’s what I learned:

  1. Set realistic expectations. When I am smack in the middle of my menstrual cycle, lower my performance expectations. Not sure about the rest of you ladies with MS, I find this particular time of month leaves me a wee but vulnerable to symptom flare-ups.
  2. Train right. If I am going to swim fly I need to train fly. The 200 fly is a difficult race. It requires planning and preparation. I hadn’t trained for it the way I should.
  3. Focus. I shouldn’t let the fact that I am swimming next to a very fit man who is young enough to be my son psych me out.
  4. Smarten up. I need to stop entering the all of the most difficult races at the meet. It’s ok for me to do 1 or 2, maybe even 3, but to pick 4, difficult events all of which need to be swum in a 4 hour period is not wise.

Having learned, I am back to the pool swimming fly in preparation for my next race. This time I will be kinder to my MS and not overload it.


  1. English Bay Swim Club
  2. Loving Spoonful

3 Comments on “MS Overload: poor planning leads to an MS attack”

  1. It’s awesome that you participate in any way, so good for you. I am learning to go easier on myself and lower my expectations, but not to the point of living a sedentary life. I loved this post especially your list of what you’ve learned. Wisdom is a powerful tool. And yes, it’s definitley a challenge during that time of the month. I find that progesterone cream (available at Whole Foods / health food stores) helps with that.

  2. Michelle says:

    Thanks again for sharing your story, which is very familiar to me in my own life with MS. To say what you had planned to do was challenging is an understatement! It would be challenging to someone who is not dealing with a stupid illness. Unfortunately MS has a habit of putting us in our place and reminding us that it is always there. And yes I too have issues with my MS acting up with my cycle. I am so sorry that you had to deal with MS in the middle of your meet but I am so proud of your attitude – totally inspiring! Good luck with your training!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s