Saturday, July 9, 2011

A Day of Testing the Heart

I love to workout.  I really do.  Jump on my bike with a group of friends and ride around Lake Geneva or a long swim outside.  A hot early Sunday run finishing by dumping cold water over the head before heading to grab a bagel with the "old guys" who run the same route.  You either "get it" or you don't.  There is no middle ground.  Those who don't, all seem to be miserable to me.  Lacking self confidence or a belief that you can do anything if you set your mind to it.  Additionally, those folks miss the spirituality of an early morning run and wild life or an amazing sun rise - or even a wall of snow or rain. One step in front of the other.  One at a time.  It moves you toward the goal.  All that may need to change pending the results of Friday's tests.

Emotionally, this has been a little rough.  Of course, the weather has been ideal for training and I have the bug to train in the worst way.  I'm not going to be concerned about it because I'm much more than just a triathlete, although my athletes might not appreciate the scrutiny of their power, rpms and heart rate numbers that I'm giving them this week.  This week I've put in a lot of thinking about "what if".  What if I'm not "allowed" to swim, bike or run again?  More about that later.

Thursday night, after my week off of training and putting in 34 hours at my client in three days; I felt like this original test was bullshit.  I'm fine.  I'm going to treat this test like a performance test.

Friday came and off to the hospital I went.  Walked into the Cardiac Testing center of the hospital and then it got real.  Once changed and ready to go, I got the chest shaved for the heart leads.  So many, I didn't count.  This was a nuclear medicine test.  This means running with a catheter in my hand.  OK, just like the GSSI lab.  This also meant injections while running.  That's new.  This means that I got a shot of an isotope 10 minutes before the running began.  Fast forward roughly 20 minutes (16.5% grade and 8.9 mph), and I told them 1 more minute.  Where I got 1 more shot of isotope (while running the same speed).  I forget the max heart rate to be honest; something around 197.  The scary number that I saw (the only bad thing all day) is when I was running at slower pace - my blood pressure was 220 over 90.  That cannot be good.  What is interesting is the faster I went, the better the blood pressure got.  At 183 heart rate I recall hearing that my BP was around 190 over 80.  Cardiologist said, "This looks fine" and abruptly left.  Dude... what about the frickin' blood pressure? What's up with that?  I'm not sick!  I feel fine!  Why the hell is this going on?  Hey!  Off to get a scan to look for blockages.  Got a ride in a wheelchair - 'hospital policy' to the nuclear medicine area of the hospital.  13 minutes of scan - "Don't move your chest - but breathe normally."  When I breathe normally... ok, whatever.  I just tried not to move around a lot.

I now had 1 hr 15 minutes of "down time".  Off to lunch in the hospital cafe.  Soup and a bowl of fruit.  Back to Nuclear Medicine.  The saline "push" before another injection of isotope was cool.  The isotope itself was cold this time. 10 minute wait and back for another 13 minute scan.  I was counting heart beats between movements of the machine.  Roughly 24.  Kinda like counting swim strokes - only not nearly as fun (and I hate counting swim strokes).

The last test of the day was an echocardiogram.  It was very interesting.  I know enough about anatomy to understand some things about function better than the "general public".  The tester was nice, but not allowed to tell me anything for fear she could say something wrong followed by a freaked out patient and legal action.  I just want to know what is going on so I can get on with our life.  No holes in any veins or arteries.  Valves all working; opening and closing fine with no noticeable back-slosh of blood.  Blood volume was hard to follow.  She recorded them so fast I couldn't see what they were.  There were no, "OH SHIT! Get me a doctor" or "CLEAR AN ER STAT!" calls.  After all, that wouldn't instill confidence in their patients.  I got a $5 gift card for "free" soup/coffee in the cafe for waiting an extra hour in the prep room.  The gift card has replaced the lollipop for good behavior at a doctors visit.

What to do?  Well, I've had some quality fishing time.  Some fun with Greta in the lake.  Thoughts of, what if I can race again?  Then what?  Where?  Why?  What new event can I try?  (When was the last time you did something for the first time?)  What about riding a bike across country?  Not necessarily in a race... just to do it.  What next?  What will happen to my health?  Maybe another degree?  Maybe coaching a large group for a race?

What next if I'm not allowed or physically able to race anymore?  1) Well, I didn't forget how to train people.  I'll be able to start a new chapter in coaching and take on more people.  2) We can travel more.  Going to see a race like the Tour de France in person.

Hope to see you tomorrow.


  1. Thanks for the report. I'm praying for you. How long until you find out the results?

  2. Thanks Melissa. Should find out tomorrow or Tuesday. I'll keep you updated.