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Lyme Disease and the Endurance Athlete

By Peter Weaver | May 17, 2016, 5:37 p.m. (ET)

Peter Weaver“It was the best of times… It was the worst of times” This famous line from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities most aptly describes the past 17 months of my duathlon career.

I started competing in triathlons in 2009 as a way of coping, in a healthy way, with a deep, major life setback. However, not really being able to conquer the fear of open water swimming, I took up the sport of duathlon in 2011. While success was not immediate, I was able to qualify for the 2012 and 2013 ITU World Championships for my birth country, Canada.

Buoyed by what I termed a successful 2013 World Championships, I trained hard through the fall and winter in anticipation of trying to qualify a year in advance for 2015 Worlds in Australia — a place I have always wanted to visit. The national qualifier was in Toronto in early July, so I developed my plan and got to work. However, some strange things started to happen to my health. In March, I was hospitalized with pneumonia. Physicians were stumped at why such a healthy man would get so sick and be breathing at only 80 percent of normal capacity.

Once released from hospital I had a terrible time trying to get back in shape, I spent the longest time walk-running my run sessions and at a pace no better than 11 minutes per mile. Somehow, I managed to claw back to a fraction of my old self and won my age group (third overall) at the Tri for the Y Duathlon of southern Maine, and a second place finish in my age group at the Duncan Hadley Duathlon in New Brunswick, Canada.

However, another setback began to creep in: serious pain and mild swelling in my right knee. It was now early June, and I was unable to weight bear without serious pain I spent the final six weeks of nationals preparations water jogging instead of the hard core road work I really needed. Upon arriving in Toronto, I was not confident of gaining a spot in the top ten I needed. The pain was still a major problem, but I competed anyway.

So assured that I had not qualified, I left the race, packed my bike up and headed to the airport. When I got to the airport, I checked the results and much to my surprise I not only made the top ten, I actually medaled with second place. To say that I was elated was an understatement! I remember texting my daughter in the airport, “Pack your bags we r headed to auz,” but regretting that I had not stayed to accept the medal.

Upon arriving back to Maine I decided to take time off. I made arrangements for my medal to be sent to me (it was stolen in the mail and only the envelope arrived) and went on vacation. Then one day in mid-August I started to experience the worst headaches ever and a horrible fever as well. I could not get out of bed for three days, and on the advice of my wife, I went to the doctor and had a Lyme test done, which turned out to be negative. However, about three days later, the right side of my face became paralyzed. My eyelid would not close, my jaw would not open or close properly and I lost my ability to speak without serious slurring. Fearing I was having a stroke I immediately contacted my doctor who began to treat me for Lyme and ordered a more sophisticated test called “The Western Blo,”, which confirmed that I did have Lyme disease.

When I was diagnosed, I set three goals. First, I would not blame God. Second, I would not miss work as a special education teacher at Mount Desert Island High School. And third, I would race again.

As the fall wore on I did my best to train. I taped my eye shut when I rode the bike so bugs would not get in my open eye, I tried to run but the pain was so excruciating in my knee, I could only run a mile at most. On top of it all the medication wasn’t working and stronger options were suggested. A family friend came to visit and asked if he could pray for healing. My faith is strong and I believe that miracle healings happen, so I agreed. Within three days the residual effects disappeared — No more paralysis in the face. My GP and my optometrist called it a miracle. I agreed.

Despite the absence of the residual effects, I still struggled with fatigue and the knee pain. What was up with that? Thinking it was Lyme-related arthritis my doctor sent me for an x-ray and then an MRI. The diagnosis was much different than expected — a torn meniscus. Not only had I likely raced in nationals with Lyme disease, but I raced with a torn meniscus as well!

I had surgery on Thanksgiving eve 2014 and was fully cleared for training in January. However, it was like starting from scratch five years ago when I first started duathlon. I had lost all fitness, and I could tell that I would not be able to be ready to travel to the other side of the world to compete in a grueling 10-40-5 duathlon. So, with much disappointment, I withdrew but vowed to make a comeback and somehow be ready enough by September to try again to qualify for 2016.

I would love to say that it was a smooth fairy tale comeback, but it wasn’t. I raced five times last summer, competing on behalf of Team FCA Endurance. In each race, I turned in a personal best including the National Duathlon Championships in Montreal. However, I missed qualify for Spain by two places and three and a half minutes. I cried tears of disappointment when I crossed the line yet remained thankful that the disease had not decimated me like many others I know.

I write this testimony, not to brag or bring attention to myself. I do so with the hope of being an encouragement to those who may be going through similar tough times and also to bring awareness to a disease that many are naive to. I also share this as thanks for the excellent care I received medically, for a friend who stepped out and offered to pray for me and for the wonderful gift of miracle healing.

I now feel the best I have ever felt. The Lyme seems to be completely in remission, and I look forward to putting the past disappointments behind me and running the race to win — not for my glory but for His.

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